Objective: Familial aggregation, a primary theme in genetic epidemiology, can be estimated from family studies based on an index person. The excess risk due to the presence of affected family members can be classified according to whether disease in the relatives is considered a risk factor for the index person (type I relative risk) or whether the disease status of the index person is considered a risk factor for the relatives (type II relative risk).
Study design and setting: A meta-analysis of published colorectal cancer studies reporting a measure of familial association was performed and application of multilevel linear regression to model age-specific relative risks presented.
Results: The pooled type I relative risk of colorectal cancer given any affected first-degree relative (based on 20 studies) was 2.26 (95% confidence interval CI = 1.86, 2.73) and decreased with the age of the consultand. The pooled type II estimate (based on seven studies) was 2.81 (95% CI = 2.05, 3.85).
Conclusion: Type I relative risks are useful in clinical counseling settings when a consultand wants to know his/her disease risk given his or her family history. Type II relative risks can be used to quantify the risk of disease to relatives of an affected individual and then identify subjects eligible for screening.