Lynch Syndrome Hereditary Cancers Public Awareness Day

Today, as we reach the end of Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, we focus on raising awareness of Lynch syndrome (hereditary non-polyposis colon cancer or HNPCC).

Governors of a number of states have proclaimed March 30, 2011 as Lynch Syndrome Hereditary Cancers Public Awareness Day.

Inherited mutations in the genes that cause Lynch syndrome greatly increase the lifetime risk of colorectal cancer and endometrial cancer, and also raise the risk of a number of other cancers.

Identifying families and individuals with a Lynch syndrome mutation enables prevention or early detection of Lynch-related cancers when they can be cured.

Despite higher chances of cancer, Awareness Saves Lives!

Increased Risk of Cancer

If a parent carries a Lynch mutation there is a 50-50 chance that their child will inherit Lynch syndrome with

  • 60 to 80 percent increased lifetime risk of colorectal cancer.
  • 40 to 70 percent increased risk of endometrial cancer (cancer of the uterus lining).
  • 13 percent increased risk for stomach cancer
  • 12 percent increased risk of ovarian cancer.
  • smaller, but significant risk of small intestine, urinary tract, heptobiliary, skin, and brain cancers.
  • Some families may also have increased risk for breast cancer.

Lynch-related cancers are often diagnosed at a young age, and they progress much more quickly than the usual colorectal cancers.Chart of Increased Cancer Risk with Lynch Syndrome

Identifying Families with Lynch Syndrome

Key to saving the lives of people with Lynch syndrome is finding those with mutations and then watching carefully for polyps and new cancers. Identifying families with mutations includes

  • Screening all people diagnosed with colorectal cancer for microsatellite instability (MSI), since all Lynch colorectal cancers have this biomarker. Not all MSI-high patients have Lynch syndrome, but the test will find those who need further genetic testing.
  • Questioning healthy people about their family cancer history. A simple, online tool that can be used by primary care doctors takes less than two minutes to complete.
  • Being aware of red flags that might indicate Lynch syndrome
    • A family history that includes several members with colon or uterine cancer in more than one generation.
    • Family members whose cancers were diagnosed at a young age — below the age of 40 to 50.
    • Patterns of of several cancers in the family or in one person.

Preliminary evidence that raises suspicion of Lynch syndrome should trigger genetic testing for mutations in genes that cause it. A genetic counselor can help track family and personal cancer history, arrange testing if necessary, and recommend follow-up action for those who test positive for a mutation.

For More Information

From M.D. Anderson Cancer Center: Lynch Syndrome (Hereditary Nonpolyposis Colorectal Cancer Syndrome or HNPCC)

View the Fight Colorectal Cancer Webinar with Dr. Henry Lynch: Does Colorectal Cancer Run in Your Family?

Proclamations for Lynch Syndrome Hereditary Cancers Public Awareness Day were obtained by Lynch Syndrome International.

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