Michigan residents urged to learn about risk for hereditary cancers caused by Lynch syndrome

Contact: Jennifer Eisner 517-241-2112

For Immediate Release: March 20, 2017

As part of the awareness efforts for Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, Gov. Rick Snyder and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) are recognizing March 19-25, 2017 as Lynch Syndrome Awareness Week. Michigan residents are urged to ask their health care providers about Lynch syndrome (LS) and to discuss their personal family history of colorectal cancer.

LS is the most common inherited disorder that increases a person’s risk of developing colorectal cancer. It is not a rare disorder – one in every 300-400 Americans, and one in 33 colorectal cancer patients have LS. Because LS is underdiagnosed, many may not know that they have the condition.

“Individuals with Lynch syndrome have up to 40-80 percent risk of developing colorectal cancer, much higher than the six percent risk in the general population. First-degree relatives of individuals with Lynch syndrome have a 50 percent chance of inheriting the condition as well,” said Dr. Eden Wells, chief medical executive of MDHHS. “Knowing that you have a higher risk of colorectal and other cancers due to LS can prompt your doctor to recommend earlier and more frequent cancer screening, which may help diagnose the disease early and potentially save your life.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all newly-diagnosed colorectal cancer patients should be screened for LS. Diagnosis of LS is important for individuals with colorectal cancer due to higher risks of other cancers as LS increases the risks of developing cancers of the endometrium, ovaries, pancreas, urinary tract, skin, and brain. Members of a family with LS may be diagnosed with different types of cancer. It is therefore very important for Michigan residents to talk to their health care providers about their family’s cancer history, particularly if cancer was diagnosed before age 50.

According to Dr. Julie Zenger Hain, Co-Chair of the Michigan Cancer Genetics Alliance (MCGA) and Director of Medical Genetics at Beaumont Hospital-Dearborn, “An early age of onset of cancer (before 50 years of age) is one of the warning signs that could indicate the presence of a hereditary cancer syndrome. Genetic counseling and hereditary colorectal cancer genetic testing are important steps to consider to identify an individual’s and their family’s cancer risk.”

MDHHS is working to achieve the Healthy People 2020 objective of increasing the number of newly-diagnosed colorectal cancer patients who receive genetic screening for LS. It is estimated that 20,000-35,000 Michigan residents have LS, and the majority (98 percent) have not been screened and are not even aware of such testing.

To learn more about hereditary cancers, visit www.michigan.gov/hereditarycancer. A directory of cancer genetic counseling clinics in Michigan maintained by the MCGA can be found at https://migrc.org/Library/MCGA/MCGADirectory.html.

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