Guidelines for the clinical management of Lynch syndrome
(hereditary non-polyposis cancer)
H F A Vasen, G Mo ¨slein, A Alonso, I Bernstein, L Bertario, I Blanco, J Burn, G Capella, C Engel,
I Frayling, W Friedl, F J Hes, S Hodgson, J-P Mecklin, P Møller, F Nagengast, Y Parc, L Renkonen-
Sinisalo, J R Sampson, A Stormorken, J Wijnen
............................................................... ............................................................... .....
J Med Genet 2007;44:353–362. doi: 10.1136/jmg.2007.048991
Lynch syndrome (hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer) is
characterised by the development of colorectal cancer,
endometrial cancer and various other cancers, and is caused by
a mutation in one of the mismatch repair genes: MLH1, MSH2,
MSH6 or PMS2. The discovery of these genes, 15 years ago,
has led to the identification of large numbers of affected
families. In April 2006, a workshop was organised by a group
of European experts in hereditary gastrointestinal cancer (the
Mallorca-group), aiming to establish guidelines for the clinical
management of Lynch syndrome. 21 experts from nine
European countries participated in this workshop. Prior to the
meeting, various participants prepared the key management
issues of debate according to the latest publications. A
systematic literature search using Pubmed and the Cochrane
Database of Systematic Reviews reference lists of retrieved
articles and manual searches of relevant articles was
performed. During the workshop, all recommendations were
discussed in detail. Because most of the studies that form the
basis for the recommendations were descriptive and/or
retrospective in nature, many of them were based on expert
opinion. The guidelines described in this manuscript may be
helpful for the appropriate management of families with Lynch
syndrome. Prospective controlled studies should be undertaken
to improve further the care of these families.
significant in between 15% and 30% of cases. In
penetrant dominant or recessive inherited syn-
drome. The most common of these is Lynch
syndrome (hereditary non-polyposis colorectal can-
cer (HNPCC)).1It is characterised by the develop-
ment of CRC, endometrial cancer and various other
cancers, and is caused by a mutation in one of the
mismatch repair (MMR) genes: MLH1, MSH2, MSH6
or PMS2. Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) is
another well-described inherited syndrome, and is
responsible for ,1% of all CRC cases. It is
characterised by the development of hundreds to
thousands of adenomas in the colorectum. Almost
all patients develop CRC if they are not identified
and treated at an early stage. FAP is transmitted as
an autosomal dominant trait, and is caused by
See end of article for
Dr H F A Vasen,
University Medical Centre &
Foundation for the
Detection of Hereditary
10, 2333 AA Leiden, The
Received 8 January 2007
Revised 12 February 2007
Published Online First
2 March 2007
nvironmental factors play a dominant role in
the aetiologyof most colorectal cancers (CRCs).
However, inherited genetic factors are also
truncating mutations in the (APC) adenomatosis
polyposis coli gene. Recently, the MUTYH (mutY
homologue (Escherichia coli)) gene has been identi-
fied as a further polyposis gene. The associated
disorder has been termed MUTYH-associated poly-
posis or MAP, and displays an autosomal recessive
pattern of inheritance.2
In April 2006, a workshop was organised by a
group of European experts on hereditary gastro-
intestinal cancer in Palma de Mallorca. The main
purpose of this meeting was to establish guidelines
for the clinical management of the most common
inherited forms of CRC and to identify collabora-
tive studies. Twenty-one
European countries participated in this workshop.
Prior to the meeting, various participants were
requested to prepare the key management issues of
debate according to the latest publications. During
the workshop, all recommendations were dis-
cussed in detail. In this review, we report the
outcome of the discussion with respect to Lynch
A systematic literature search using Pubmed
and the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews,
reference lists of retrieved articles and manual
searches of relevant articles was performed. Search
terms included HNPCC, Lynch syndrome, micro-
satellite instability and MMR genes. Only peer-
reviewed English articles were included. Table 1
shows the criteria that were used for evaluation of
studies on management, for categorisation of
evidence that they presented and for the strength
of the recommendations that we made.
CHARACTERISTICS OF LYNCH SYNDROME
Carriers of an MMR gene mutation have a high
risk of developing CRC, endometrial cancer and
other associated cancers. Table 2 summarises the
various types of cancers and the reported risks.3–10
The cancers observed in families with Lynch
syndrome are diagnosed at an unusually early
age, and may be multiple. The MMR defect leads
to instability in microsatellites of tumour DNA;
this is called microsatellite instability (MSI). This
feature can be found in .90% of colon cancers
associated with Lynch syndrome, whereas in
sporadic CRC it is found in about 15% of cases.
Abbreviations: CPT11, irinotecan; CRC, colorectal cancer;
FAP, familial adenomatous polyposis; FU, fluorouracil;
HNPCC, hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer; IHC,
immunohistochemical; MSI, microsatellite instability; MMR,
mismatch repair; QoL, quality of life; TVU, transvaginal
With immunohistochemical (IHC) analysis using antibodies
against the four MMR proteins, loss of protein expression of the
causative gene can be shown.
In 1989, the Amsterdam criteria were proposed in order to
provide uniform family material required for international
collaborative studies.11In 1999, these criteria were revised and
now include various extra-colonic tumours.12In 1997, the
Bethesda guidelines were developed to identify individuals with
CRC who should be tested for MSI.13 14These guidelines were
revised in 2004.15Box 1 shows the revised Amsterdam criteria
and Bethesda guidelines. After the discovery of mutations in
the MMR genes, 14 years ago, the syndrome finally received the
attention in the medical community that it deserved. This has
led to the identification of large numbers of affected families.
Various names for Lynch syndrome have been used in the past
century. A workshop in Amsterdam in 1989 agreed upon the
name ‘‘HNPCC’’, because at that time the syndrome was
unknown to most doctors. This name clarified that the
syndrome described an inherited form of CRC. The appropri-
ateness of the name was discussed again at an international
meeting in Bethesda in 2004. Most participants considered the
term HNPCC to be inappropriate, since the syndrome is also
associated with many other tumours. It was proposed that the
name ‘‘Lynch syndrome’’ should be reintroduced, and that this
name should be reserved for families with strong evidence of
MMR deficiency—for example, by the presence of an MMR
defect or by the presence of MSI in tumours.15The European
group agreed that this name is the best available name for the
syndrome. The group suggests that families that meet the
original Amsterdam criteria but do not have evidence for MMR
deficiency are referred to as having familial CRC.
Identification of family members carrying an MMR gene defect
is important, as colonoscopic surveillance may be restricted to
these individuals, whereas those without a gene defect may be
reassured and spared intensified surveillance. Mutation analy-
sis is rather expensive, as four genes may have to be analysed.
Moreover, comprehensive screening of these genes is required,
as their mutational spectra are wide.
Currently, the Amsterdam II/Revised Bethesda criteria are
used to select patients with CRC for molecular genetic and/or
IHC analysis of the tumour, and those with evidence of MSI or
loss of MMR expression are offered mutation analysis.
Question: are the Amsterdam II criteria and the revised
Bethesda guidelines appropriate to select families for molecular
genetic analysis of tumours?
One way to establish whether these criteria are appropriate is
to determine the proportion of cases with inherited MMR gene
mutations that they would miss in a series of unselected
patients with CRC. We found six studies in which either MSI or
IHC analysis or both tests were performed as the primary
screening tool in prospective and unselected series of patients
with CRC (table 3).16–21
Previous studies have shown that the yield of mutation
analysis (positive predictive value) in families that meet the
Amsterdam criteria is approximately 50%, and that the yield in
families that meet the Bethesda criteria is between 10% and
20%.22The six studies showed that the sensitivity of the
Amsterdam criteria for the detection of mutations was 40% and
that the sensitivity of the Bethesda guidelines was about 90%
(table 3). This means that if the revised Bethesda guidelines
had been used, about 10% of the mutation carriers would have
been missed, mostly patients with CRC diagnosed between age
50 and 60 years. According to the revised Bethesda guidelines,
in patients with CRC diagnosed in their 50s, special attention
should be given to the presence of pathological features that
suggest Lynch syndrome (eg, the presence of tumour-infiltrat-
ing lymphocytes). If these features are found, the tumours
should be tested for MSI. Unfortunately, the studies sum-
marised in table 3 did not present data on the pathological
examination of the cancers in these cases.
In view of the high costs of testing all CRCs for MSI or loss of
MMR protein, the group believed that the revised Bethesda
guidelines are an appropriate tool to help in selecting patients
for genetic testing. An alternative approach is to use computer
models that are currently being evaluated.23 24
Because of the accumulating evidence that MSI is a
predictive factor for response to 5-fluorouracil (FU)-based
chemotherapy, the group expects that these tests will be
performed in an increasing number (if not all) of patients with
CRC in the near future.
Conclusion: the revised Bethesda guidelines are appropriate
tools to help in selecting families for molecular genetic and/or
IHC analysis of tumours (category of evidence II)
Question: which test, MSI or IHC, has the best sensitivity for
the detection of MMR gene mutations?
In the literature, many studies have been published on the
results of MSI or IHC analysis for the identification of MMR-
gene mutations. However, most studies were retrospective and
the methods that were used varied widely. The number of
markers for MSI analysis ranged from 1 to .10. For IHC
analysis, most studies used two antibodies (MLH1, MSH2)
Validity and grading of recommendations
Category of evidence
Meta-analysis of randomised controlled trial
Randomised controlled trial
Well-designed controlled study without randomisation
Well-designed quasi-experimental study
Non-experimental descriptive study
families with an identified mismatch repair
Lifetime risk of cancer reported in
Colorectal cancer (men)
Colorectal cancer (women)
Urinary tract cancer
Bile duct/gallbladder cancer
354 Vasen, Mo ¨slein, Alonso, et al
against the MMR proteins; other studies used three or four
antibodies (MLH1, MSH2, MSH6, PMS2). In the studies in
which both MSI analysis and IHC analysis have been used
prospectively (table 4), the sensitivity of MSI analysis was
slightly better than that of IHC analysis.17 19–21 24–28The false
negatives with IHC might be due to the fact that the antibody
detects a fragment of the truncated protein. There is one large
(German) study that evaluated the outcome of these tests
prospectively in families that meet the Amsterdam, Bethesda or
slightly modified criteria. In this study, MSI analysis (using the
Bethesda set of five markers) and IHC analysis (two antibodies)
were performed in 1119 index patients.26Altogether, 230
pathogenic MMR gene mutations were identified. The sensi-
tivity of MSI analysis was 100% and that of IHC analysis was
94%. A Dutch study showed that by adding antibodies against
PMS2 the sensitivity for the detection of MLH1 mutations
increased.29Had the German investigators used all four
antibodies, the sensitivity of IHC might have been higher.
The advantage of IHC is that it may direct mutation analysis
because the pattern of staining is suggestive of the underlying
gene defect. This is the reason for most authors recommending
the use of IHC as the first step in families with a high
probability of carrying a mutation (eg, families that meet the
Amsterdam criteria or families with a high predicted probability
based on calculations using computer models (fig 1).22–24 26
Because of the incomplete sensitivity of IHC analysis, MSI is
recommended for cases with a high prior probability of Lynch
syndrome but with apparently normal expression of the MMR
proteins. In families with a moderately increased probability of
carrying a mutation, depending on the experience of the centre,
either MSI or IHC analysis might be used as the first step to
exclude the presence of MMR deficiency. Preferably, colon
tumour tissue is used for MSI/IHC analysis. However, if colon
tumour tissue is not available, other tumours—for example,
endometrial cancer or adenomatous polyp—may be analysed.
Unfortunately, the few studies that are available showed that
the sensitivity of MSI/IHC for MMR mutations in these tumour
tissues was lower than that of the same analysis of colon
Because interpretation of the pedigree information, the
pathology of the tumour and the outcome of MSI and IHC
testing can be complex, our group advises that these data be
discussed together by a multidisciplinary team.
Conclusion: the sensitivity of MSI analysis is slightly higher
than that of IHC analysis (category of evidence II). In families
with a high probability of having a mutation (Amsterdam II
criteria, computer models), IHC is the best first step because it
may direct mutation analysis. In other families, either MSI or
IHC analysis might be used as the first step. The results of
pedigree analysis and MSI/IHC analysis should be discussed in
a multidisciplinary setting (pathologist, clinical/molecular
geneticist, gastroenterologist, surgeon, etc; grade C).
SURVEILLANCE OF THE COLORECTUM
Studies have shown that the adenoma–carcinoma sequence
may also be applied in the development of CRC in families with
Lynch syndrome. Since the 1980s, colonoscopic surveillance has
Box 1 Amsterdam criteria II and revised Bethesda
Amsterdam criteria II
There should be at least three relatives with colorectal cancer
(CRC) or with a Lynch syndrome-associated cancer: cancer of
the endometrium, small bowel, ureter or renal pelvis.
N one relative should be a first-degree relative of the other
N at least two successive generations should be affected,
N at least one tumour should be diagnosed before the age
of 50 years,
N FAP should be excluded in the CRC case if any,
N tumours should be verified by histopathological exam-
Revised Bethesda guidelines
1. CRC diagnosed in a patient aged ,50 years.
2. Presence of synchronous, metachronous colorectal or other
Lynch syndrome-related tumours,* regardless of age.
3. CRC with MSI-H phenotype diagnosed in a patient aged
4. Patient with CRC and a first-degree relative with a Lynch
syndrome-related tumour, with one of the cancers diagnosed at
age ,50 years.
5. Patient with CRC with two or more first-degree or second-
degree relatives with a Lynch syndrome-related tumour,
regardless of age.
*Lynch syndrome-related tumours include colorectal, endome-
trial, stomach, ovarian, pancreas, ureter, renal pelvis, biliary
tract and brain tumours, sebaceous gland adenomas and
keratoacanthomas, and carcinoma of the small bowel.
and immunohistochemical analysis in a population-based or consecutive series of unselected colorectal cancer
Outcome of mismatch repair gene mutation analysis in relation to clinical criteria and results of microsatellite instability
Primary test used
MMR genes analysed
Proportion of mutation carriers that
meet the clinical criteria
markers Amsterdam II
Aaltonen et al,
Debniak et al,
Salovaara et al,
Cunningham et al,
Hampel et al,
Pinol et al,
7 MLH1, MSH2
MLH1, MSH2, MSH6, PMS2
–, not performed; ?, not evaluated; CRC, colorectal cancer; IHC, immunohistochemical; MMR, mismatch repair; MSI, microsatellite instability.
?The original number of consecutive CRCs was 168, including 143 sporadic cases and 25 suspected cases. In total, 43 sporadic cases and 25 suspected cases were
*Communicated with authors.
Clinical management of Lynch syndrome355
been recommended for these families. The following question is
Question: does colonoscopic surveillance of the colorectum
lead to early detection of CRC or adenoma and reduction of
A literature search showed that nine studies have addressed
at least the first part of the question.33–41Table 5 summarises the
nature of these studies, the number of families involved and the
categories of evidence produced. All the studies showed that
surveillance led to the detection of CRC at an earlier stage
compared with the stage in historical controls. The only
prospective controlled trial showed that surveillance led to a
63% reduction of CRC.38Two studies assessed the effect of
surveillance on CRC-associated mortality. A Finnish study
showed that colonoscopic surveillance significantly decreased
the mortality associated with CRC.38 42A study from the
Netherlands evaluated the relative mortality in a large series
of families over a period of 45 years. In the Netherlands, a
national registry of families with Lynch syndrome was
established in 1985 to promote the identification of such
families and to encourage participation in surveillance pro-
grammes.35Mortality in these families has decreased signifi-
cantly in the last 15 years.
Conclusion: periodic examination by colonoscopy leads to the
detection of CRC at an earlier stage, to a 63% reduction of the
risk of CRC and to a significant reduction of the mortality
associated with CRC (category of evidence IIb).
The protocols that have been used in studies of surveillance
have varied with respect to the surveillance intervals. Some
studies advised a 3-yearly colonoscopy and others colonoscopy
Question: what is the optimal surveillance protocol for Lynch
syndrome in terms of surveillance interval?
A search of the literature did not reveal any studies that
compared different surveillance intervals. The Finnish trial
showed that 3-yearly colonoscopy significantly reduced the
incidence of CRC and CRC-related mortality.38Therefore, the
only evidence available suggests that a 3-yearly interval may be
adequate. However, several observational studies suggest that
(interval) cancers can occur within a 3-year interval after
colonoscopy. In a Finnish study on surveillance of 56 families,
the stage distribution of CRC was significantly more favourable
in patients (n=35) with cancer detected by surveillance than
in patients (n=115) with symptomatic presentation of CRC.39
However, a total of 21 cancers were diagnosed after a previous
‘‘clean’’ colonoscopy, and half of them were diagnosed within
(or at) an interval of 3 years. These included two Dukes C
cancers diagnosed 15 and 20 months after the previous
examination. In a Dutch long-term follow-up study, a number
of interval cancers were also observed. Advanced cancers
(Dukes C) were only observed at intervals of .2 years, whereas
all Dukes A and B tumours were detected within an interval of
,2 years. These observations, together with the finding that
adenomas observed in HNPCC more often show high-grade
dysplasia and villosity, suggest that the adenoma–carcinoma
sequence is accelerated in Lynch syndrome.32 43Therefore, the
most appropriate surveillance interval probably lies between 1
and 2 years. In highly selected cases—for example, mutation
carriers who have recurrent adenomas—a prophylactic subtotal
colectomy may be discussed as an option.
Conclusion: a 3-year interval is proven to be (at least partly)
effective (category of evidence IIb); in view of the observation
of advanced CRC detected 2–3 years after colonoscopy, the
optimal interval probably lies between 1 and 2 years (category
of evidence III, grade C).
Question: at what age should surveillance be started and at
which age might surveillance be discontinued?
Outcome of prospective molecular genetic analysis using both immunohistochemical and microsatellite instability analysis in selected and unselected cases of colorectal cancer
Criteria for selection
Primary test used
MMR genes analysed
Proportion of mutation carriers with an
Debniak et al,
Cunningham et al,
Scartozzi et al,
Engel et al,
Hampel et al,
MLH1, MSH2, MSH6, PMS2
Pinol et al,
Southey et al,
CRC ,45 years
MLH1, MSH2, MSH6, PMS2
Barnetson et al,
CRC ,55 years
MLH1, MSH2, MSH6
Niessen et al ,
CRC ,50 years or CRC plus
cancer associated with CRC
MLH1, MSH2, MSH6
CRC, colorectal cancer; IHC, immunohistochemical; MMR, mismatch repair; MSI, microsatellite instability.
*The original number of consecutive CRCs was 168, including 143 sporadic cases and 25 suspected cases. In total, 43 sporadic cases and 25 suspected cases were analysed.
356Vasen, Mo ¨slein, Alonso, et al
Many studies have shown that the risk of developing CRC
before the age of 25 years is very low.7–10In a series of 246 CRC
from families with Lynch syndrome known at the Dutch
HNPCC Registry, only 2 (0.8%) patients developed CRC before
the age of 20 years and another two between age 20 and
25 years.44Based on these data, the group advises to start
surveillance between age 20 and 25 years. In the literature,
recommendations regarding the upper age limit of surveillance
are very sparse. One study has reported that the risk of
mutation carriers aged 70–75 years developing CRC in the next
10 years is significant.44However, at the age of 80 years, they
found that the risk of developing CRC in the next 10 years
relative to their life expectancy was low. Based on these
findings, the authors recommended continuing surveillance up
to the age of 80 years in mutation carriers if they were in good
health. However, the European group advises that decisions on
the upper age limit of surveillance should be made on an
individual basis. For example, in a 75-year-old mutation carrier
with severe cardiovascular disease, surveillance can be discon-
tinued. On the other hand, in an 80-year-old mutation carrier
who is still in good health, especially if there is a personal
history of adenomas and colon cancer, it is reasonable to
Conclusion: surveillance should start between age 20 and
25 years. Decisions on the upper age limit of surveillance
depend on the patient’s general state of health and should be
made on an individual basis (category of evidence III, grade C).
Question: which surveillance protocol should be recom-
mended in families with clustering of CRC without evidence of
MSI in the tumours?
In a significant proportion (approximately 30%) of families
that meet the Amsterdam criteria, the results of the MSI and
IHC analysis of the colorectal tumour(s) are negative.45
Clustering of CRC by chance or genetic defects other than
those of MMR may be responsible for the disease in such
families, and they do not have Lynch syndrome. These families
are characterised by a more advanced age of onset of CRC than
in families with Lynch syndrome, and the absence of
endometrial cancer and multiple tumours. A recent study
reported that the risk of developing CRC in such families is
increased only by a factor of 2.3.45Another study compared the
results of surveillance in families with clustering of CRC with
and without MSI.46The results showed that the yield of
adenomas was the same in both types of families. However,
CRC was identified only in the families with MSI tumours. In
families without evidence for MMR deficiency, a less intensive
colonoscopic surveillance programme (eg, colonoscopy: 16/3–
5 years, starting 5–10 years before the first diagnosis of CRC or
at .45 years) might be appropriate. In view of the absence of
patients with colorectal cancer with a
mismatch repair gene defect. *If MLH1
expression is lost, DNA analysis of BRAF in
the tumour can be performed because the
presence of a BRAF-V600E mutation makes
hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer
(HNPCC) very unlikely. IHS,
immunohistochemical; MSI, microsatellite
instability; MSS, microsatellite stability.30
Strategy for identification of
Studies on surveillance of families with Lynch
Type of study/category
Love et al,
Mecklin et al,
Vasen et al,
Vasen et al,
Jarvinen et al,
Renkonen et al,
Arrigoni et al,
De Vos tot Nederveen Cappel
Clinical management of Lynch syndrome357
endometrial cancer in such families, surveillance of the
endometrium is not indicated.
Conclusion: in families with clustering of CRC but without
evidence of MMR deficiency (families without Lynch syn-
drome), a less intensive surveillance protocol is recom-
mended—that is, colonoscopy at 3–5 year intervals, starting
5–10 years before the first diagnosis of CRC or at .45 years
(category of evidence III, grade C)
SURVEILLANCE OF THE ENDOMETRIUM/OVARY
Previous studies have shown that carriers of an MMR mutation
have a high risk of developing endometrial cancer.7Although it
is known that the majority of (sporadic) endometrial cancers
are detected at an early stage, about 10–15% of patients with
such tumours will ultimately die from metastatic disease. In
view of this significant mortality and the high risk of
developing endometrial cancer in families with Lynch syn-
drome, most authors advise surveillance of the endometrium.
Question: how effective is surveillance for endometrial cancer
in families with Lynch syndrome?
British and Dutch investigators evaluated the outcome of
surveillance of 269 women from families suspected of having
Lynch syndrome.47 48The surveillance programme consisted of
ultrasound every 1–2 years. It did not lead to the detection of
premalignant lesions or endometrial cancer. However, two
women presented with symptoms at 6 and 24 months after a
normal ultrasound and were diagnosed with endometrial
cancer. Both tumours were in an early stage (Figo I). In
another study from the Netherlands, 41 women from families
with Lynch syndrome underwent surveillance by transvaginal
ultrasound (TVU) followed by aspiration biopsy in suspected
cases. After a mean follow-up of 5 years, premalignant
lesions—that is, complex atypia—were detected in three
patients. There was one interval cancer diagnosed 8 months
after a normal ultrasound. This tumour was at an early stage. A
recent study of 175 subjects from Finland reported the results
of surveillance by TVU and aspiration biopsy.49Complex atypia
was found in 5 patients, endometrial cancer was found in 11,
and there were 2 interval cancers. Out of the 11 screen-detected
cancers, 6 cancers were identified only by aspiration biopsy and
not by TVU. Table 6 summarises the outcomes of the studies.
American investigators reported on a retrospective cohort of
315 women, all mutation carriers, 61 of whom had prophylactic
surgery and were then followed up for approximately 10 years.
No endometrial cancer or ovarian cancer developed in those
women who had prophylactic surgery, whereas 33% of women
who did not have surgery developed endometrial cancer and
5.5% developed ovarian cancer.50
In conclusion, two of the three available studies suggested
that surveillance may lead to the detection of premalignant
lesions, and one study suggested that it may also lead to the
detection of endometrial cancer at an early stage. More
prospective studies are needed to establish the most appropriate
screening protocol. Because of the higher risk of developing
endometrial cancer in carriers of an MSH6 mutation, hyster-
ectomy may be suggested to these women after menopause.
This surgery may also be considered for carriers of mutations in
the other MMR genes, and for women who require surgery for a
CRC. In view of the risk of ovarian cancer and the failure of
early detection of such tumours by TVU and CA-125 estimation,
bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy might be considered in muta-
tion carriers after completion of family planning.
Conclusion: the value of surveillance for endometrial cancer
is unknown. Surveillance by gynaecological examination, TVU
and aspiration biopsy starting from age 30–35 years may lead to
the detection of premalignant lesions and early cancers
(category of evidence III, grade C). Prophylactic hysterectomy
and salpingo-oophorectomy may be an option for women with
Lynch syndrome, since it substantially reduces site-specific
cancers (grade C).
SURVEILLANCE FOR OTHER RELATED CANCERS
Other cancers associated with Lynch syndrome include cancer
of the stomach, ureter, renal pelvis, small bowel, bile ducts and
tumours of the brain. The lifetime risk of developing one of
these cancers is relatively low (,10%), and may be associated
with the underlying MMR defect. The risk of developing gastric
cancer may be higher in some countries. The International
Society of Gastrointestinal Hereditary Tumours recommends
surveillance for cancer of the stomach if the cancer clusters in
the family (more than one case).51However, the European
group is of the opinion that surveillance in families with Lynch
syndrome for gastric cancer may also be considered in countries
with a high incidence of such tumours.
In the decision-making process regarding which surveillance
protocol should be recommended, a reasonable approach might
be first to discuss all the various cancer risks with the patient,
then discuss which screening protocols are established as
effective based on published evidence—for example, colon and
possibly endometrium screening (see above). Finally, the doctor
and patient should weigh up the possible benefits versus costs
and risks for screening for other cancers. In addition, it should
be recommended to all at-risk family members that they should
contact a doctor early if they are worried about specific signs or
Table 7 summarises the guidelines for surveillance of families
with Lynch syndrome recommended by the collaborative group
of the European experts in hereditary gastrointestinal cancer.
This protocol is indicated in families with an identified MMR
defect, and also in families with clustering of CRC and other
related cancers with evidence of MMR deficiency—for example,
by the presence of MSI or loss of expression in tumours (with
the exception of families of patients with such features caused
by hypermethylation of MLH1).
SURGICAL MANAGEMENT OF COLORECTAL CANCER
Several studies have shown that patients with Lynch syndrome
have an increased risk of developing multiple (synchronous and
metachronous) CRCs. Thus, before resection of a colon tumour,
it is important to visualise the complete colon, because of the
risk of a synchronous tumour.
Question: what is the best surgical treatment for a patient
who is diagnosed with CRC associated with Lynch syndrome?
A Dutch study reported that the risk of developing a second
colon tumour after treatment of a primary CRC in Lynch
syndrome was 16% after 10 years of follow-up.41In view of this
substantial risk, the question arises whether a subtotal
colectomy instead of a segmental resection might be the
preferred treatment in patients from families with Lynch
syndrome with a primary tumour. In a recent study, a decision
analysis was performed to compare the life expectancy for
patients undergoing subtotal colectomy or partial resection for
a primary screen-detected CRC.52The results indicated that
subtotal colectomy performed at a young age ((47 years)
would lead to an increased life expectancy of up to 2.3 years.
Unfortunately, the authors were not able to use quality of life
(QoL)-adjusted life expectance, because studies on QoL that
specifically consider patients with Lynch syndrome were not
available in the literature. Although for sporadic CRC QoL after
segmental resection has been reported to be better than that
after subtotal colectomy, in families with Lynch syndrome, QoL
after segmental resection may be decreased by the need for
colonoscopy (vs sigmoidoscopy after subtotal colectomy) and
the fear of a second tumour.
358 Vasen, Mo ¨slein, Alonso, et al
Based on these findings and the substantial risk of
developing a second tumour, subtotal colectomy with ileorectal
anastomosis can be considered if colon cancer is detected in a
young patient participating in a surveillance programme. A
prospective study that also addresses QoL should evaluate
which surgical option is the most appropriate in Lynch
syndrome. Until the outcome of such studies is available, the
Mallorca group recommends discussing the pros and cons of
both options with a patient from a family with Lynch syndrome
who develops CRC.
Conclusion: regarding the treatment of CRC in patients from
families with Lynch syndrome, no controlled trials are
available; one decision analysis study has reported an increase
in life expectancy with subtotal colectomy compared with
partial resection; in view of this study and the high risk of a
second CRC, the option of extensive resection should be
discussed in young patients (eg, ,50 years; category of
evidence III, grade C).
Currently, at least three chemotherapeutic agents have been
proven to be effective in the treatment of CRC—that is, 5-FU
with or without leucovorin, oxaliplatin and irinotecan (CPT11).
Unfortunately, the effectiveness of these agents in patients with
MSI-H or Lynch syndrome tumours is unknown. In vitro
studies have suggested that MMR-deficient colon cancer cells
might not respond to 5-FU-based chemotherapy.53On the other
hand, CRC cell lines defective in MMR exhibit increased
sensitivity to CPT11 .54
Question: is chemotherapy effective in patients with MSI-H
The effect of chemotherapy in patients with MSI-H or
HNPCC tumours has been reported in only a few studies
(table 8).55–59Most studies showed that there was no benefit of
5-FU treatment in such patients. One small study on stage IV
CRC patients reported complete or partial responses to
treatment with irinotecan in 4 of 7 patients with MSI-H
tumours, compared with 7 of 65 patients with MSI-L/MSS
Because most studies are retrospective, all authors urge
caution in implementing these findings in clinical practice until
they are confirmed by prospective studies. Because it may be
unethical to withhold chemotherapy in a clinical trial for
potentially curable advanced-stage colon cancer, the best
format of such studies is to compare effective drugs such as
CPT11 or oxalaplatin with 5-FU.
Conclusion: experimental and clinical studies suggest that
MSI-H tumours are resistant to 5-FU-based chemotherapy;
however, prospective clinical trials are needed before definitive
recommendations can be given (category of evidence III).
The guidelines for the management of Lynch syndrome
provided in this manuscript are the result of intensive
discussions among the participants of a 2-day workshop held
in Mallorca in April 2006. Because most of the studies that form
the basis for the recommendations were descriptive and/or
retrospective in nature, many of these recommendations were
The outcome of surveillance for endometrial cancer in families with Lynch syndrome
(Dove-Edwin et al,
(Rijcken et al,
(Renkonen-Sinisalo et al,
Number of subjects
Patient years of
Number of scans
TVU and aspiration biopsy
3 complex atypia
5 complex atypia
–, not found; TVU, transvaginal ultrasound.
*Including one occult cancer detected at surgery.
Surveillance protocol in Lynch syndrome and familial clustering of colorectal cancer
Disorder Lower age limit (years)Examination Interval (years)
urinalysis and cytology urine?
Familial clustering of
colorectal cancer without
evidence of MSI`
45–50 or 5–10 before age
at diagnosis of first CRC in family
CRC, colorectal cancer; MSI, microsatellite instability.
*If gastric cancer runs in the family or in countries with a high incidence of gastric cancer.
?If urinary tract cancer runs in the family.
`Amsterdam positive families.
Clinical management of Lynch syndrome 359
based on expert opinion, and we were fortunate to convene an
extensive expert panel. During the workshop, it became clear
that there are still many aspects of Lynch syndrome about
which new knowledge needs to be gained through further
Regarding the identification of Lynch syndrome, the avail-
able criteria (revised Bethesda guidelines) seemed to be
effective for the selection of families for analysis of tumour
MMR status. However, even with the use of these guidelines, a
significant proportion of mutation carriers may be missed. The
sensitivity of the Bethesda criteria might be improved by
investigating these missed cases. For example, since most
missed mutation carriers are diagnosed with CRC between age
50 and 60 years, it may be appropriate to increase the age at
diagnosis below which MSI analysis is recommended. Another
possibility might be to evaluate all CRCs, for example by IHC.
Because there is increasing evidence that MSI/IHC is an
important prognostic factor and may predict the response to
chemotherapy, these tests might in future be performed on a
much larger scale, if not in all CRC cases.
Studies have shown that colorectal surveillance in Lynch
syndrome leads to a reduction of CRC and associated mortality.
However, a substantial proportion (estimated at 5–10% per
10 years of follow-up) of patients develop (interval) cancers
under surveillance. For this reason, future research should
address how new screening tools such as chromoendoscopy,
high-resolution colonoscopy with narrow banding or DNA
analysis of the faeces might help in the early detection of
Very few data are available on the effectiveness of surveil-
lance for endometrial cancer. A prospective trial in which TVU
is being compared with TVU and aspiration biopsy should be
For patients with Lynch syndrome who present with CRC,
the surgical choice lies between partial resection and more
extensive surgery such as subtotal colectomy and ileorectal
anastomosis. In view of the increased risk of developing a
second tumour and also the evidence for improved life
expectancy after extensive surgery, the best option seems to
be a subtotal colectomy. However, because such an extensive
surgical procedure might have significant impact on the QoL, a
randomised controlled trial should be performed, which
includes assessment of the QoL and functional outcome after
the two procedures.
The use of chemotherapy in patients with Lynch syndrome
having CRC, or in patients with MSI-H tumours, is controversial.
Because of the effective surveillance programmes, few patients
with metastatic disease are currently being identified. Therefore,
future trials on the effect of various chemotherapeutic regimens
in Lynch syndrome or in patients with MSI-high tumours should
be conducted on a European level or even worldwide.
There is ample evidence that the expression of Lynch
syndrome is influenced by environmental factors. However,
studies that indicate which environmental factors play a
significant role are rare. Since 1998, the effect of resistant
starch and aspirin has been investigated in a large randomised
placebo-controlled trial with families having Lynch syndrome
from all over the world (http://www.CAPPs.com). The results
will be published in 2007. A new trial (the Prevention of
Endometrial Tumours trial) is being developed to explore the
possibility of chemoprevention using the progesterone-releas-
ing Mirena intrauterine device.
In conclusion, the guidelines described in this manuscript
may be helpful for the appropriate management of families
with Lynch syndrome. There is an urgent need for prospective
controlled studies to improve the care of these families further.
The workshop in Mallorca identified several collaborative
studies the group will focus on to clarify some of the
controversial issues that exist in the clinical management of
H F A Vasen* , Department of Gastroenterology, Leiden University Medical
Centre, Leiden, The Netherlands
G Mo ¨slein*, Department of Surgery, St Josefs Hospital Bochum-Linden
(Helios), Bochum, Germany
A Alonso, Department of Medical Genetics, Hospital Virgen del Camino,
I Bernstein, Department of Gastroenterology, Hvidrove Hospital, Hvidrove,
L Bertario, Department of Surgery, Hospital Tumori, Milan, Italy
I Blanco, Department of Genetic Counselling, Prevention and Cancer,
Catelonian Institute of Oncology, Barcelona, Spain
J Burn, Institute of Human Genetics, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
G Capella, Translational Research Laboratory IDIBELL, Institut Catala
D’Oncologia, Barcelona, Spain
C Engel, Institute of Medical Informatics, Statistics and Epidemiology,
University of Leipzig, Leipzig, Germany
I Frayling, J R Sampson, Institute of Medical Genetics, Cardiff, UK
W Friedl, Institute of Human Genetics, University Clinics, Bonn, Germany
F J Hes, J Wijnen, Department of Clinical Genetics, Leiden University
Medical Centre, Leiden, The Netherlands
S Hodgson, Department of Clinical Genetics, St George’s Hospital,
J-P Mecklin, Department of Surgery, Jyvaskyla Central Hospital, Jyvaskyla,
P Møller, Department of Genetics, Norwegian Radium Hospital, Oslo,
F Nagengast, Department of Gastroenterology, University Medical Centre,
Radboud, Nijmegen, The Netherlands
Y Parc, Department of Digestive Surgery, Hospital Saint-Antoine, University
Pierre et Marie, Paris, France
L Renkonen-Sinisalo, Department of Surgery, Helsinki University Central
Hospital, Helsinki, Finland
Studies on the effectiveness of chemotherapy in patients with MSI-H tumours
Author, year Type of study and selection criteriaAgents
MSI-H tumour Effect of chemotherapy
Liang et al,
Prospective, non-randomised; stage IV CRC High-dose 5-FU/
52Better survival in patients with MSI-H
tumours who received chemotherapy
No survival differences Ribic et al,
Retrospective MSI analysis of tumours from patients
who participated in a multicentre RCT 20–25 years ago;
CRC stage II/III
Retrospective, consecutive patients; CRC stage II/III
Retrospective, CRC stage III patients from families
Non-randomised controlled trial; CRC stage IV
Carethers et al,
De Vos et al,
No survival differences
No survival differences
Fallik et al,
7 3 partial and 1 complete response
CRC, colorectal cancer; FU, fluorouracil; HNPCC, hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer; MSI, microsatellite instability; RCT, randomised controlled trial.
360 Vasen, Mo ¨slein, Alonso, et al
A Stormorken, Department of Medical Genetics, Ulleva ˚l University
Hospital, Oslo, Norway
*HFAV and GM contributed equally to the preparation of this manuscript.
Competing interests: None declared.
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