[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The reported incidence of hereditary colorectal cancers (CRCs) is widely variable. The principal aim of the study was to prospectively evaluate the incidence of familial CRCs in a region of northern Italy using a standardized method. Consecutive CRC patients were prospectively enrolled from October 2002 to December 2003. Patients underwent a structured family history, the microsatellite instability (MSI) test and a screen for MUTYH mutations. Following family history patients were classified as belonging to high, moderate and mild risk families. Immunohistochemistry for MLH1, MSH2, MSH6 and PMS2 proteins and investigation for MLH1/MSH2 mutations, for MLH1 promoter methylation and for the V600E hotspot BRAF mutation were performed in high MSI (MSI-H) cases. Of the 430 patients enrolled, 17 (4%) were high risk [4 hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC), 12 suspected HNPCC and 1 MUTYH-associated adenomatous polyposis coli (MAP)], 53 moderate risk and 360 mild risk cases. The MSI test was performed on 393 tumours, and 46 (12%) of them showed MSI-H. In these patients, one MLH1 pathogenetic mutations and two MSH2 pathogenetic mutations were found. Thirty-two (70%) MSI-H cases demonstrated MLH1 methylation and/or BRAF mutation: None of them showed MLH1/MSH2 mutation. Two biallelic germline MUTYH mutations were found, one with clinical features of MAP. A strong family history of CRC was present in 4% of the enrolled cases; incidence of MLH1/MSH2 or MUTHY mutations was 1.3% and of MSI-H phenotype was 12%. MLH1 methylation and BRAF mutation can exclude 70% of MSI-H cases from gene sequencing.