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Genet Test. 2004 Winter;8(4):421-30.

Screening for an inherited susceptibility to colorectal cancer.

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Department of Medicine and Division of Genetics, University of Rochester, Rochester, NY 14642, USA.


The principal Mendelian disorders predisposing to colorectal cancer are familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) and hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC). FAP is caused by mutations in the adenomatous polyposis coli (APC) gene. HNPCC is caused by a mutation in one of at least five mismatch repair genes. It is important to identify individuals with these conditions because colon cancer will occur in at least 80% and onset is earlier than in the general population. Potential benefits of identification include improved compliance with recommended surveillance, early detection of polyps, reduction in cancer mortality, and reassurance for relatives found to be negative with attendant savings in the time and expense of surveillance. For classic FAP, the large number of polyps readily identifies affected persons. For HNPCC, identification of individuals meriting DNA sequencing requires either recognition of a suspect family history or finding high microsatellite instability in a tumor. Individuals accepting the offer of genetic counseling and DNA testing often have more cancers in their family, are motivated to inform relatives, have a larger social network, and have more confidence in their coping ability. Individuals who decline are often concerned about their own or their family's emotional reaction or fear discrimination.

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