As many of you know, Anne and Whitley recently experienced the death of a friend from colon cancer. It turns out that a married couple who sailed from England to America around 1630 may be the ancestors of hundreds of people alive today who are at risk for a hereditary form of colon cancer that may contribute to a significant percentage of colon cancer cases in the United States.

Researchers studied two large families, one in Utah and one in New York, that both carry a specific genetic mutation responsible for increased risk of colorectal cancer. They discovered that the two families share common ancestors?a couple who came to America from England in the 1630s, about the time of the Pilgrims. Researcher Deborah Neklason says, “The fact that this mutation can be traced so far back in time suggests that it could be carried by many more families in the United States than is currently known. In fact, this founder mutation might be related to many colon cancer cases in the United States. The Utah family in this study has more than 7,000 descendants spanning nine generations.

“Knowing one has the condition can be life-saving,” Neklason says. “Not only are affected individuals at greater risk then the general population as they grow older, but precancerous polyps are often found in mutation carriers in their late teens and colon cancer has been diagnosed in individuals in their 20s.”

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