An estimated 900 Australians who are diagnosed with bowel cancer each year under the age of 50 will have an underlying genetic cause, so it's important to understand the most common one, Lynch Syndrome.
Lynch Syndrome is an inherited genetic mutation which gives people an increased chance of developing certain cancers during their lifetime, often at a younger age than the general population. One of these cancers is commonly bowel cancer.
Previously known as HNPCC or Hereditary Non-Polyposis Colorectal Cancer, Lynch Syndrome can be inherited from either parent and is caused by a fault in one of the genes known as a ‘mismatch repair’ gene.
Why? Because when you inherit two correctly working pairs of the gene, the genes work by repairing the mistakes that can occur when DNA is copied in preparation for cell division. When they don’t work, and the genes fail to repair these mistakes in the DNA, errors accumulate, which may lead to uncontrolled growth of cells and eventually cancer.
Both men and women have an equal chance of inheriting Lynch Syndrome and a 50% chance of passing the condition to their children. The good news is that it cannot skip a generation, so if your children do not have it, your grandchildren will not be affected.
If there is a history of members of your family who have developed bowel cancer under the age of 50, you should be screened for Lynch Syndrome.
Regular screening by colonoscopy in families with a history of Lynch Syndrome normally begins around age 25 or 5 years earlier than the youngest relative diagnosed, whichever comes first.
Medical guidelines recommend universal testing of all bowel cancers for Lynch syndrome.
For more information, visit our Lynch Syndrome Awareness Day webpage.