Knowledge is Power: Learn More About Lynch Syndrome

Over the past few years, hereditary breast and ovarian cancer, and the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, have received a lot of media attention. From the perspective of a Genetic Counselor, I can say that these stories have helped raise awareness about hereditary cancer and the importance of understanding your family history. I hope that this information has also empowered more people to ask their healthcare providers about genetic testing and if it is right for them.

The phrase “knowledge is power” applies perfectly to your health, and information is essential towards creating change. Beyond breast cancer, it is important that people learn more about other types of cancer that could be hereditary, such as colorectal and uterine cancer.

One important hereditary cancer syndrome to understand is Lynch syndrome, which impacts somewhere between every 1 in 279 to 440 people in the U.S. This condition is caused by a genetic mutation in one of five different genes; Lynch syndrome is the most common hereditary cause of colorectal and uterine cancer. People with Lynch syndrome have an increased risk to develop multiple types of cancer; therefore, they need to be offered earlier and more frequent cancer screening, such as colonoscopies, to catch cancer early and sometimes preventive surgeries, such as removing the uterus for women, are recommended to help reduce the risks of developing cancer. Also, if someone is diagnosed with Lynch syndrome, their close family members may also be at risk to have the same condition, and would benefit from genetic testing.

It is important to identify who has Lynch syndrome so healthcare providers can make more educated recommendations about cancer screening and prevention. If you have a personal and/or family history of colorectal or uterine cancer, in multiple family members, especially if your relatives were diagnosed at young ages , talk to your healthcare provider about Lynch syndrome to find out if genetic testing may be helpful for you and your family.

  1. Buchanan et al. Clinical problems of colorectal cancer and endometrial cancer cases with unknown cause of tumor mismatch repair deficiency (suspected Lynch syndrome). Appl Clin Genet. 2014. 7:183-93.
  2. Haraldsdottir et al. Colon and endometrial cancers with mismatch repair deficiency can arise from somatic, rather than germline, mutations. Gastroenterology. 2014. 147(6):1308-1316.

 



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