Primary Immunodeficiency Patients Should be Screened for Gastrointestinal Cancers Early

A research study led by Professor Beishi Zheng from Columbia University has studied the immunogenetics of gastrointestinal (GI) cancers.

The Study

This study demonstrated that individuals who are diagnosed with a primary immunodeficiency (PI) have a higher risk for developing early-onset GI cancer. This study is incredibly important because it demonstrates that PI patients should receive earlier screening for GI cancers then what is recommended for the average individual.

Screening for GI cancers is incredibly simple. A minimally invasive and painless colonoscopy procedure can detect GI cancers early. When the cancer is caught in an early stage, treatment is much more likely to be successful.


These researchers reviewed the data from 149 patients who had been diagnosed with a primary immunodeficiency and a GI cancer. 88 of the PI patients were specifically diagnosed with common variable immune deficiency (CVID).

They found that most of these individuals (95) were diagnosed with gastric cancer. The average age of diagnosis for gastric cancer was 46 years. The rest of the patients (35) were diagnosed with colorectal cancer. For these patients, the average age of diagnosis was 33. Both 46 and 33 are much younger than the average age of diagnosis in the general population.

What This Means

Although PI is known to increase patients susceptibility to developing allergies, autoimmune conditions, and infections generally, the link to GI cancers has not been specifically documented until now. Although this study has not yet been peer reviewed, it provides important information regarding how we should develop care plans for PI patients.

The authors of this study have recommended updating our guidelines to document the risk PI patients may be at developing GI cancers. Through documenting this risk, patients will be told that screening for GI cancer will be recommended earlier than the general population.

You can read more about this study and what its findings could mean here.

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