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Hereditary Colon Cancer Syndrome


In every family, certain traits are shared and passed on from one generation to the next. Most obvious are inherited genetic traits that control the tendency to develop specific diseases, such as some cancers.

Many people don’t realize that some colon and rectal (colorectal) cancers are hereditary – that is, they’re due to a damaged gene that is passed from parent to child. Once such condition is called Lynch Syndrome, also know as hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC). In people with Lynch Syndrome, a change or mutation in one of three genes (MLH1, MSH2, or MSH6) may allow the formation of small growths of tissue called polyps. Polyps in the colon are usually benign (noncancerous). However, the type of polyp most often seen in Lynch Syndrome, called an adenoma, is precancerous and has the potential to develop into cancer. In Lynch Syndrome these polyps can become cancerous more quickly than expected.

But polyps aren’t the only sign of Lynch Syndrome. In fact, nonpolyposis means there aren’t very many polyps-typically fewer than 10. Some people with Lynch Syndrome might not have any polyps at all. That’s why the diagnosis of Lynch Syndrome relies heavily on other clues, such as family history and genetic testing. Families with Lynch Syndrome usually have two or more members who develop colorectal cancer and/or endometrial (uterine) cancer, often before age 50. In addition to colorectal and endometrial cancer, Lynch Syndrome increase the risk for other cancers, such as ovarian, stomach (gastric), kidney/urinary tract, brain, biliary tract, pancreatic, and small bowel. 

Does Lynch Syndrome Run In Your Family?

You could be at-risk for Lunch Syndrome if:

  • You or a relative were diagnosed with colorectal cancer or endometrial cancer before age 50
  • You or a relative have had two or more Lynch Syndrome-related cancers (such as two colorectal cancers or both colorectal and endometrial cancer
  • Two or more members of your family have been affected with any Lynch Syndrome-related cancer (for example, you have had colorectal cancer and your mother had endometrial cancer)

If you carry Lynch Syndrome gene mutation, you have up to an 82% risk of developing colorectal cancer by age 70 and for women, up to 71% risk of developing endometrial cancer by age 70. Risks for other cancers, such as ovarian and stomach, are also increased as well.

Colaris: A Test for Lynch Syndrome (HNPCC)

Colaris is a blood test that detects mutations in the specific genes that are related to Lynch Syndrome. It is important to understand that Colaris does not tell you whether you have cancer, but it tells you if you are at increased risk for cancer. Knowing this information allows you to take steps to reduce your cancer risk.