Lynch Syndrome

Lynch Syndrome is an inherited condition that increases your risk of developing some cancers, including bowel, womb and ovarian cancer.

What is Lynch Syndrome?

It’s caused by an alteration on one or more mismatch repair genes (MLH1, MSH2, MSH6, PMS2 and EPCAM)- whose function is to repair errors that may arise in the DNA code which in turn stops people developing cancer.

Some other cancers may also be associated with Lynch Syndrome but to a lesser extent, such as stomach cancer, certain types of kidney/ urinary tract cancers, small bowel cancer, and brain tumours.

Families that have Lynch Syndrome usually have more cases of colon (bowel) or womb cancer than would typically be expected. A number of these cases may occur at an earlier age (under 50) than they might in the general population.

If you have a family history of colon or womb cancer and have concerns about this, speak to your GP and ask for a referral to your local genetics centre.

Prevention

Women with Lynch Syndrome are at increased risk of both womb and ovarian cancer and may be offered a hysterectomy (removal of the womb) and salpingo-oophorectomy (removal of the fallopian tubes and ovaries), usually after the age of 40.

For women who wish to postpone preventative surgery and preserve their fertility for a few years, a hysteroscopy and biopsy may be offered once a year to look for womb cancer. A hysteroscopy involves passing a small camera through the cervix (the neck of the womb) to have a look at the inside of the womb. A small sample of the lining of the womb (biopsy) can be taken at the same time to be sent to the lab to ensure there are no abnormal cells present.

Because Lynch Syndrome also increases the risk of bowel cancer, a bowel check every two years is also offered. A colonoscopy is the best way to check the bowel and involves passing a long flexible tube with a small camera at the end of it through the anus (back passage) to look for abnormalities.