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Preventing Cancer in Women with Lynch Syndrome

Which Methods Make the Most Sense?

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Updated: July 11, 2007

Lynch syndrome is a genetic condition that predisposes people to colon cancer and other cancers as well. While most people have about a six percent chance of developing colon cancer at some point in their lives, people with Lynch syndrome have about an 80 percent chance. Women with Lynch syndrome also have about a 10 percent chance of developing ovarian cancer and a 50 percent chance of developing uterine cancer.

A study published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology tried to determine what preventive measures made sense for women with Lynch syndrome with respect to reducing the occurrence of uterine and ovarian cancer. It looked at three options:

  • Annual gynecologic examinations;
  • Annual screening using endometrial biopsy, transvaginal ultrasonography, and serum CA 125; or
  • Surgical removal of the uterus, ovaries, and fallopian tubes at age 30.

Results of the Study

The researchers determined that the most invasive option (surgery) resulted in the lowest cancer risk and the least invasive option (annual exams) resulted in the greatest cancer risk. This held true for both ovarian and uterine cancers. But, overall survival didn't change much. On average, women who had their uterus, ovaries, and fallopian tubes removed at age 30 lived three years longer than those who had annual gynecologic exams.

Specifically, ovarian cancer occurred in eight percent of women who underwent annual exams, four percent who had annual screening, and less than 1/10 of a percent of women who had surgery. Uterine cancer occurred in 49 percent of women who underwent annual exams, 18 percent who had annual screening, and less than 1/10 of a percent of women who had surgery. Though it seems counterintuitive, it is still possible for women to get ovarian or uterine cancer when those organs have been removed. An example is peritoneal carcinoma.

Women who had annual exams lived to be about 77, those who had annual screening lived to be about 79, and those who underwent surgery lived to be about 80.

What Can You Do With This Research?

It's important to remember that this is merely one study, but I personally like having numbers to help me make a decision. If you're a woman with Lynch syndrome, you may want to mention this study to your doctor and get her take on how it might apply to you.

Related Articles: More Research About Lynch Syndrome

Source: Chen, L. and Yang, K. "Gynecologic Cancer Prevention in Lynch Syndrome/Hereditary Nonpolyposis Colorectal Cancer Families." Obstetrics & Gynecology 110 (2007): 18-25. Accessed 1 Jul. 2007 [http://www.greenjournal.org/cgi/content/abstract/110/1/18?ct=ct].

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