More than a million people in the United States are carrying a genetic mutation that greatly increases their risk for developing a variety of cancers. However, the majority of people living with this inherited condition, known as Lynch syndrome, don’t know they have it or have even heard of the disease. Today, March 22nd is Lynch Syndrome Awareness Day.
The lifetime risk of cancer for individuals with Lynch syndrome can be as high as 80 percent. In the United States, an estimated 1 in 300 people carry one of the five Lynch syndrome mutations, but most carriers are either undiagnosed, or diagnosed after they have developed cancer. Cancers commonly associated with Lynch syndrome include colon cancer, rectal cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, and stomach cancers. For someone with Lynch syndrome, these cancers often arise at young ages and often numerous times within a family.
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute is home to the nation’s first multidisciplinary Lynch Syndrome Center. The Center provides genetic counseling and testing for those at risk for Lynch syndrome while delivering coordinated care for those diagnosed with Lynch syndrome. Innovative clinical trials for individuals living with Lynch syndrome and their family members are also offered and later this year, the Lynch Syndrome Center will open a new clinical trial to test if a vaccine can prevent Lynch Syndrome from developing cancer.
“While Lynch syndrome greatly increases cancer risk, if carriers are identified early enough through genetic testing, there are many effective cancer prevention strategies that can dramatically reduce their likelihood of developing cancer,” said Matthew Yurgelun, MD, Director of the Lynch Syndrome Center. “Cancers caused by Lynch Syndrome can also be highly responsive to immunotherapy, a new type of cancer treatment that allows the body’s own immune system to recognize and attack cancer cells. Given the prevalence of this disease in United States, everyone should be aware of Lynch syndrome and there is no better time to familiarize yourself with the risk factors and warnings signs associated with Lynch.”