Lynch Syndrome

What is Lynch Syndrome?

Lynch syndrome, also known as Hereditary Nonpolyposis Colorectal Cancer (HNPCC), is an inherited condition that can cause cancer to emerge from adenomas, or benign tumors in the colon. It can also increase the risk for various kinds of cancers, such as those located in the brain, stomach, kidney, small intestine, liver, and gallbladder.

Females with Lynch syndrome are also at a higher risk for cancer in the ovaries and uterus. However, the most prevalent cancer caused by Lynch syndrome is colon cancer. Lynch syndrome is a hereditary condition and an autosomal-dominant disease, meaning that a person only needs one parent to have the condition in order to inherit it.

What are the Symptoms of Lynch Syndrome?

Because Lynch syndrome is an indicator of cancer, and not cancer itself, it doesn’t present any symptoms. However, a person’s family history can be indicative of the condition. For instance, if a person’s parents or siblings have Lynch syndrome, then they have a 50% chance of also having it.

If other relatives have colon cancer or any other kind of cancer, that could be a sign of Lynch syndrome. Those with the disorder also tend to develop benign polyps in the colon at an earlier age; because many polyps are harmless, this symptom may incidental to another issue that a doctor is looking at.

Lynch Syndrome Causes

Lynch syndrome is an inherited condition, meaning it can run in a family with multiple blood relatives contracting the syndrome. MLH1, MSH2, MSH6, PMS2, and EPCAM are some of the genes that may be altered to produce Lynch syndrome in an individual. These mutations can multiply the risk of an individual developing colorectal cancer and other similar cancers. Additionally, women possessing the defective genes may also be at risk of developing endometrial and ovarian cancers.

In normal circumstances, an individual carries two copies of each gene: one inherited from the mother and one from the father. In Lynch syndrome, where certain genes are defective, those abnormalities need only be present in one gene for the individual to be at risk of developing the disease. This means each child has a 50% chance of contracting Lynch syndrome, regardless of how many children the couple has together.

How is Lynch Syndrome Treated?

Treatment for Lynch syndrome is all about preventative measures and educating the family of potential inheritance so they can get tested. A person may want to seek out a genetic counselor, or a specialist who has been trained to help patients manage their disorder, figure out family planning, and understand the risk factors and the probability of passing the condition on.

Lynch Syndrome Prevention

While Lynch syndrome is inherited, there are some prevention methods, included frequent screenings, preventative surgeries, and aspirin, that help to reduce the risks. Doctors also recommend lifestyle changes in order to reduce the overall risk of contracting many types of cancer. For instance, increasing the amount of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in one’s diet will boost the body’s immune system and general strength. Daily exercise will also benefit the body in numerous ways, decreasing the probability of contracting Lynch syndrome or other cancers.

Weight loss and maintaining a healthy weight are of special importance in reducing the risk of developing cancer and other illnesses. In some extreme cases, a lifestyle change may not be enough. Overly obese individuals should consult a doctor about medications or possible surgical procedures.

Smoking is also a concern. While most people understand that quitting smoking will greatly reduce the risks associated with lung and breast cancer, studies have shown that tobacco smoke also contributes to the development of many other cancer types. In cases of Lynch syndrome, quitting smoking can reduce the risk of contracting colon cancer.