Practical genetics of colorectal cancer

Henry T. Lynch, Trudy G. Shaw

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Hereditary colorectal cancer (CRC) is highly heterogeneous, both genotypically and phenotypically. The most frequently occurring hereditary colorectal cancer syndrome is Lynch syndrome, accounting for approximately 3% of the total colorectal cancer burden. Polyposis syndromes, such as familial adenomatous polyposis, account for a lesser percentage. Familial colorectal cancer, defined by family history, occurs in an estimated 20% of all colorectal cancer cases. With a worldwide annual colorectal cancer incidence of over one million, and annual mortality of over 600,000, hereditary and familial forms of colorectal cancer are a major public health problem. Lynch syndrome is attributable to DNA mismatch repair germline mutations, with the MSH2, MLH1, MSH6, and PMS2 genes being implicated. The characteristics of Lynch syndrome-associated colorectal tumors, including early age of onset and predilection to the proximal colon, mandate surveillance by colonoscopy beginning by age 20 to 25 and repeated every other year through age 40 and annually thereafter. Besides colorectal cancer, Lynch syndrome also predisposes to a litany of extracolonic cancers, foremost of which is endometrial cancer, followed by cancer of the ovary, stomach, renal pelvis and ureter, small bowel, hepatobiliary tract, pancreas, glioblastoma multiforme in the Turcot's variant, and sebaceous skin tumors in the Muir-Torre variant and, more recently identified, cancers of the breast and prostate. The most common polyposis syndrome is familial adenomatous polyposis, caused by mutations in the APC gene. Affected individuals have multiple colonic adenomas and, without treatment invariably develop colorectal cancer. Colonic surveillance with polypectomy may be pursued until the appearance of multiple colonic adenomas, at which time prophylactic colectomy should be considered. Extra-intestinal manifestations include desmoid tumor, hepatoblastoma, thyroid carcinoma, and medulloblastoma. Other polyposis syndromes include the hamartomatous polyp syndromes, including juvenile polyposis syndrome, Peutz-Jeghers syndrome, Cowden syndrome, and Bannayan-Ruvalcaba-Riley syndrome.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalChinese Clinical Oncology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oncology


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