Michigan recognizes Lynch Syndrome Hereditary Cancer Awareness Week; New cooperative agreement with CDC enhances surveillance, education and policy interventions

Contact: Jennifer Smith 517-241-2112

For Immediate Release: March 23, 2015

LANSING, Mich. – For the first time, the entire week of March 22-28, 2015 has been proclaimed Lynch Syndrome Hereditary Cancer Awareness Week by Gov. Rick Snyder and the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) to promote the importance of Lynch Syndrome (LS) screening for newly-diagnosed colorectal cancer patients and their families.

Lynch syndrome, also known as hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC), is an inherited disorder associated with higher risks of developing colorectal, endometrial, ovarian, pancreatic, and other types of cancer. Approximately 1 in every 35 colorectal cancer patients has LS. First-degree relatives of LS patients have a 50 percent risk of having the condition as well.

The efforts to increase LS awareness in Michigan are supported by a newly-awarded cooperative agreement between MDCH and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The five-year project expands existing state resources to advance partnerships, work with policymakers, and educate health providers and the public about LS and genetic screening, with the ultimate goal of reducing overall cancer death rates in the state.

“Lynch Syndrome Hereditary Cancer Awareness Week launches our efforts to put needed focus on hereditary cancers caused by this condition,” said Matthew Davis, Michigan’s Chief Medical Executive. “One of the Healthy People 2020 genomics objectives is to increase the number of newly-diagnosed colorectal cancer patients who receive genetic counseling and evaluation for LS. Our state is already at the forefront of cancer genomics in public health, and the new agreement with the CDC helps us expand the scope of our work to achieve this goal.”

Genetic testing for LS helps determine whether a patient’s colorectal cancer is inherited and whether family members have a higher risk of developing LS-associated cancers. Having this knowledge is the first step in early intervention and cancer prevention measures that could protect the health of at-risk relatives.

“My mom had both uterine and colon cancer when she was 54; she is now 79. Thirteen of her family members died of cancer, most of which were Lynch syndrome-related,” said Sherry Berry, a Lynch Syndrome cancer survivor and advocate. “About five years ago, when I was 48, I was found to have colon cancer. My doctor asked if I wanted genetic testing, and I was found to have Lynch syndrome.  If I had known I had LS earlier, my stage 3 colon cancer could have been prevented. Maybe I wouldn't have needed chemo and wouldn’t have had complications that led to a forced retirement. If my mom’s relatives had known about LS earlier, maybe more would be alive today.”

Based on national evidence-based recommendations, LS screening should be considered for Michigan patients who are newly-diagnosed with colorectal cancer, for the benefit of family members. In addition, Michigan residents are encouraged to discuss their family health history with their healthcare providers to assess if they are at risk for hereditary cancer conditions such as Lynch syndrome.

“Know your family history and make sure your doctor knows your family history. It is of vital importance that doctors act now on critical family history information by considering referral to cancer genetic services,” added Berry. “This action can save lives! If cancer runs heavily in your family, be sure to tell your doctor and consider genetic counseling and testing.”

For more information about Lynch syndrome or hereditary cancer, visit http://www.cdc.gov/Features/LynchSyndrome or www.lynchcancers.org.

The MCGA maintains a list of Michigan clinics that provide cancer genetic counseling and test coordination; to see the directory, visit https://migrc.org/Library/MCGA/MCGADirectory.html.

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