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Gastroenterology. 2010 Dec;139(6):1927-33. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2010.06.061. Epub 2010 Jun 27.

Frequent gastrointestinal polyps and colorectal adenocarcinomas in a prospective series of PTEN mutation carriers.

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Genomic Medicine Institute, Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, Ohio 44195, USA.



Germline phosphatase and tensin homolog (PTEN) mutations cause Cowden syndrome (CS), associated with breast and thyroid cancers. Case reports found 35%-85% of CS patients had gastrointestinal (GI) hamartomas. The association of benign and malignant GI neoplasias with CS remains debatable. Our goal is to describe the GI phenotype in a prospective series of PTEN mutation carriers.


Patients who met relaxed International Cowden Consortium criteria (N = 2548) or with 5 or more GI polyps, 1 or more of which was hyperplastic or hamartomatous (N = 397), were prospectively recruited. Germline PTEN mutation/deletion analysis was performed. Of the 2945 patients, 127 (123 of 2548 and 4 of 397, respectively) patients having clear pathogenic PTEN mutations were eligible for this study. Esophagogastroduodenoscopy, colonoscopy, and pathology reports were reviewed. The Fisher 2-tailed exact test, unpaired t tests, and age- and sex-adjusted standardized incidence ratio were calculated.


Of 127 PTEN mutation carriers, 69 underwent 1 or more endoscopies with 64 (93%) having polyps. Of the 64, half had hyperplastic polyps. There were one to innumerable polyps in the colorectum, ileum, duodenum, stomach, and/or esophagus, with 24 subjects having both upper and lower GI polyps. Nine (13%) subjects had colorectal cancer, all younger than the age of 50. The adjusted standardized incidence ratio was 224.1 (95% confidence interval, 109.3-411.3; P < .0001).


PTEN-associated CS should be considered a mixed polyp syndrome, with hyperplastic polyps most prevalent, with a risk of early onset colorectal cancer. Routine colonoscopy should be considered in PTEN-associated CS, especially in the context of hyperplastic and/or adenomatous polyps.

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