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Fordyce granules and hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer syndrome
  1. C De Felice1,
  2. S Parrini2,
  3. G Chitano3,
  4. M Gentile4,
  5. L Dipaola3,
  6. G Latini5
  1. 1Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Azienda Ospedaliera Universitaria Senese, Policlinico “Le Scotte”, Siena, Italy
  2. 2Department of Odontostomatological Sciences, University of Siena, Italy
  3. 3Euro Mediterranean Scientific Biomedical Institute (ISBEM), Brindisi, Italy
  4. 4Medical Genetic Unit, Hospital Di Venere, Bari, Italy
  5. 5Division of Neonatology, Perrino Hospital, Brindisi, Italy, and Clinical Physiology Institute, National Research Council of Italy (IFC-CNR), Lecce Section, Italy
  1. Correspondence to:
    Dr C De Felice
    Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Azienda Ospedaliera Universitaria Senese, Policlinico Le Scotte, Viale M Bracci, 16-I-53100 Siena, Italy;


Background: Germline mutations in mismatch repair (MMR) genes are found in only about half of clinically diagnosed families with hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer syndrome (HNPCC) (or Lynch syndrome). Early identification of gene carriers is essential to reduce cancer incidence and overall mortality.

Aims: Recent evidence indicates an increase in size and number of sebaceous glands following activation of the hedgehog pathway, a crucial signalling pathway for animal development that is aberrantly activated in several types of cancer. Here we sought to assess a possible association between Fordyce granules (FGs—that is, ectopic sebaceous glands on the oral mucosa) and HNPCC.

Methods: A total of 15 members of five different genetically unrelated HNPCC kindreds (MLH1 gene mutation n = 8; undetectable MLH1 protein at immunochemistry n = 4; clinical diagnosis n = 3) and 630 genetically unrelated age and sex matched healthy controls were examined. Following examination of the oral mucosa surface, subjects were categorised as either FGs positive or FGs negative.

Results: Evidence of FGs was significantly associated with HNPCC (13/15 (86.7%) affected patients v 6/630 (0.95%) controls; p<0.0001), with a relative risk of 91.0 (95% confidence interval 40.05–206.76). The observed difference remained significant when carriers of germline mutations in MMR genes were considered (8/15 v 6/630; p<0.0001). The most common site for the FGs in HNPCC patients was the lower gingival and vestibular oral mucosa.

Conclusions: Our findings suggest that a previously unrecognised activation of the sebaceous glands system occurs in HNPCC. The observation could be of value for attending physicians in identifying affected families and/or increase the accuracy of the currently available molecular genetics screenings.

  • HNPCC, hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer
  • MMR, mismatch repair
  • CRC, colorectal carcinoma
  • FGs, Fordyce granules
  • Hh, hedgehog
  • MSI, microsatellite instability
  • MTS, Muir-Torre syndrome
  • colorectal neoplasms
  • hereditary non-polyposis/diagnosis
  • fordyce granules
  • sebaceous glands
  • physical examination

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  • Conflict of interest: None declared.

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