Every year, approximately 160,000 Americans are diagnosed with colon cancer… and 3% to 5% of these people will have an inherited condition called Lynch Syndrome. So WTF is Lynch Syndrome? It’s a “hereditary medical condition in which people affected inherit several genes that make them more likely to develop certain types of cancer.” (source: WiseGeek)
And here’s the real clincher… Siblings and children of someone with Lynch Syndrome each have a 50% chance of carrying same mutation. And reports suggest that a person with Lynch Syndrome is 80% more likely to develop colon cancer- often before the age of 50. Having Lynch Syndrome also increases the odds of developing other cancers, specifically kidney cancer, ovarian cancer, endometrial cancer, stomach cancer & liver cancer. OMG!
So now that we know this information, what are we to do with it? To start, many believe that all patient’s colorectal tumors should get screened for signs of Lynch Syndrome abnormalities. If a tumor screens positive, then additional blood testing can be done to confirm the presence of Lynch Syndrome. fyi… Stanford University Medical Center and several other US medical centers are now test all colon tumors for the presence of Lynch Syndrome to identify families with this genetic disorder.
From there, close family members can get their blood tested for Lynch Syndrome. If they too have Lynch Syndrome, they can take steps to either catch some cancers early or possibly even prevent them. Frequent colonoscopies can help detect colon tumors early as well as pre-cancerous tumors (polyps) before they become malignant. Women may also opt to have their uterus and ovaries surgically removed to eliminate the risk of endometrial cancer and ovarian cancer.
Although there is debate over the cost-benefit of screening for Lynch Syndrome (apparently the testing is quite expensive), this type of screening is cancer prevention and early detection at it’s best.
The Bottom Line: If you have colorectal cancer, talk to your siblings and children about getting tested for Lynch Syndrome. And if you have any family history of colorectal cancer, also consider getting tested for Lynch Syndrome. This simple test can yield important information…. and save lives!
For more information on Lynch Syndrome, check out Lynch Syndrome International.