Lynch syndrome accounts for about 1 in every 12 cases of colorectal cancer in individuals younger than 50 years. This rare condition is caused by a genetic mutation and increases the risk of people developing cancer of the colon, liver, brain, uterus or ovaries in later adulthood. Approximately one-third of people who have Lynch syndrome develop colorectal cancer by the age of 70 years if nothing is done. Unfortunately, it is difficult to diagnose Lynch syndrome unless the cancers are tested.
In a study published by Health Technology Assessment, 1,700 people under the age of 50 and recently diagnosed with colorectal cancer were examined to see which individuals had Lynch syndrome. Within the Lynch syndrome group, the research suggests that 40 further cases of cancer could be avoided for these individuals and their relatives. The benefit of testing for Lynch syndrome is that patients can receive more post-operative colonoscopy monitoring to identify new cancers and recurring cancers early.
Ian Frayling, M.D., from Cardiff University School of Medicine, led the research team. He described the study as a “very significant piece of work, which is to be most welcomed. It justifies the National Health Services in the UK in implementing such testing, which is already carried out in other European countries. Those with Lynch syndrome will now be found and given the care that they warrant, saving time, lives, money and resources.”
Frayling and this team determined that Lynch syndrome screenings help improve health outcomes at a manageable cost. The most economical way of testing for Lynch syndrome involves testing the tumor before offering counseling and genetic testing.