Angry colon with a crying uterus.

Lynch Syndrome and Ovarian Cancer

Genetics can be an important part of someone’s health. Certain genetic syndromes are related to different cancers. One example is Lynch syndrome, which has been linked to ovarian cancer.

Knowing more about Lynch syndrome can help you talk with your doctor about your risk, screening tools for it, and your overall health.

What is Lynch syndrome?

Lynch syndrome is a condition caused by gene mutations (changes). The syndrome is also called hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC). It is the most common cause of hereditary colorectal cancer.1

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People with Lynch syndrome are also at higher risk for other types of cancers at a younger age, including:1,2

  • Uterine cancer
  • Stomach cancer
  • Liver cancer
  • Kidney cancer
  • Brain cancer
  • Certain skin cancers
  • Ovarian cancer

Lynch syndrome is one of the most common inherited cancer syndromes. It is estimated that up to 1 in 300 people may be a carrier of a gene mutation linked to the condition. If several people on 1 side of a family have been diagnosed with colorectal cancer and/or endometrial cancer, it may be a sign of Lynch syndrome.3

How is Lynch syndrome related to ovarian cancer?

Lynch syndrome accounts for 10 to 15 percent of all hereditary ovarian cancers. The lifetime risk of ovarian cancer for people in families affected by Lynch syndrome is 8 percent. This is higher than the general population risk of 1.4 percent.4

Women with Lynch syndrome are also more likely to be diagnosed with ovarian cancer in their 40s. In the general population, women are more likely to be diagnosed in their 60s.4

For ovarian cancer screening to be most effective in those with Lynch syndrome, it should be started before the age of 30.4

What are the symptoms of Lynch syndrome?

Doctors use genetic tests to diagnose Lynch syndrome. They may order these tests based on signs of the condition, such as a person having:1

  • Colorectal or endometrial cancer before the age of 50
  • Colorectal, endometrial, or other types of cancer whose tumors have certain features
  • Colorectal cancer and other types of cancer linked to Lynch syndrome separately or at the same time
  • Colorectal cancer in 1 or more first-degree relatives who either has or had another Lynch syndrome-related cancer, with 1 of the cancers before age 50
  • Colorectal cancer in 2 or more first or second-degree relatives with another related cancer

You may have Lynch syndrome even if your family does not meet these criteria. Your doctor will go over your health history and your family health history. They might meet with a genetic specialist to decide if you should be tested for the condition.1

How is Lynch syndrome managed?

It is important to talk with your doctor about your family history and your risk of certain cancers. They will go over a screening schedule with you. General screening and recommendations often involve:3

  • Colonoscopy every 1 to 2 years, starting at ages 20 to 25. Or, 5 years younger than the earliest age of diagnosis in the family, whichever is sooner.
  • Upper endoscopy every 3 to 5 years and testing for Helicobacter pylori infection with treatment if positive.
  • Annual total body skin examination.
  • Screening for other cancers linked to Lynch syndrome may be recommended based on family history.
  • Taking a daily aspirin, which has been linked to a reduced risk of colorectal cancer and other cancer linked to Lynch syndrome.
  • Women should have a yearly pelvic exam, pelvic ultrasound, and endometrial biopsy starting at ages 30 to 35. Those who are done having children or do not wish to have children may want to consider having their uterus and ovaries removed.

If you are concerned about ovarian cancer and Lynch syndrome, talk with your doctor about screening tests, as well as signs and symptoms to watch for. There are also preventative steps you can take, like chemoprevention or risk-reducing surgeries. Ask your doctor if these are right for you.

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