Hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC) is an autosomal dominant condition predisposing to cancers of the colorectum and endometrium. Endometrial cancer is the most commonly occurring extracolonic cancer in HNPCC. Estimates of the cumulative incidence of endometrial cancer in women with mutations in the HNPCC genes range from 22-43%. In order to determine how frequently double primary cancers of the colorectum and endometrium are the result of a hereditary factor, we conducted a registry based study in Ontario and Quebec, Canada. We obtained pedigrees on 80 women diagnosed with double primary cancers of the colorectum and endometrium at less than 70 years of age. Family histories of cancer were obtained for all first degree relatives of these women and cancer rates were compared with age standardised provincial incidence rates in order to estimate the relative risks. There was a total of 82 cancers observed in relatives below the age of 55, compared with 31.2 expected, giving a relative risk of 2.6 (95% confidence interval (CI) 2.1-3.3). The relative risk for colorectal cancer below 55 was 16.1 (95% CI 11.6-21.8). This risk decreased with increasing age of onset of cancers in probands. For probands with both colorectal and endometrial cancer diagnosed under the age of 55, the relative risk of colorectal cancer in relatives below the age of 55 was 30.5 (95% CI 18.8-46.6). Similar patterns were observed for endometrial and pancreatic cancer. There were non-significant increases in rates of cancer of the oesophagus, stomach, small intestine, and bladder. There was no increased risk of breast cancer. The risk of lung cancer was decreased, especially in older relatives. Our findings indicate the presence of a significant genetic component of cancer in women with double primary cancers of the colorectum and endometrium.
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