Hereditary pancreatic cancer (PC) appears to be exceedingly heterogeneous, as evidenced by its association with a variety of integrally associated diverse cancers and/or differing mendelian inherited cancer syndromes, which include the Lynch syndrome II variant of hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer, hereditary breast-ovarian cancer syndrome in families with the BRCA2 mutation, hereditary pancreatitis, Peutz-Jeghers polyposis and the familial atypical multiple-mole melanoma syndrome in families with the CDKN2A (p16) germline mutation. Because of this heterogeneity, we provide a conservative estimate that about 5% (1,460) of PC cases in the US annually are hereditary. Although this number is relatively small, members of hereditary PC families serve as excellent models for studying the etiology, natural history, biomarkers, pathogenesis, potential carcinogenic exposures and their perturbation of underlying genetic events, and treatment of PC. These individuals would benefit greatly from method(s) capable of detecting cancer at an early stage, and such knowledge would also be useful for improving the diagnosis of the much more common 'sporadic' form of PC.
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