What Do I Need To Know About Colorectal Cancer Genetics?

Although many people have a family history of cancer, the majority of colorectal cancers are not due to inherited causes.

What are some signs that I or my family may have increased risk for colorectal cancer due to an inherited cause?

  • Colorectal or uterine cancer diagnosed younger than age 50
  • 2 separate colorectal cancers or colorectal and uterine cancer in the same person
  • 3 or more family members with colorectal, uterine, ovarian, and/or stomach cancer*
  • Multiple close family members with colorectal and other cancers*
  • 10 or more colorectal polyps during one’s lifetime (adenomatous, hyperplastic and /or hamartomatous polyps)

*On the same side of the family

What is Lynch syndrome?

Lynch syndrome is the most common cause of hereditary colorectal and uterine cancer. It is caused by mutations in the MLH1, MSH2, MSH6, PMS2, and EPCAM genes. People with Lynch syndrome have an increased risk for cancers of the colon, rectum, uterus/endometrium, ovaries, stomach, small bowel, and other areas.

What can I do if I have Lynch syndrome?

If you have Lynch syndrome, there are several things you can do to reduce your risk of developing cancer and some ways to prevent it.  A genetic counselor or other healthcare provider can review these options with you.  For more information on what you can do if you have Lynch syndrome or another hereditary type of colorectal cancer click here. 

For more information on what it means to have hereditary colorectal cancer, specific to the gene mutation you may carry, please click here.