A significant proportion of colorectal cancer (CRC) develops through the serrated neoplasia pathway. Such tumours show a distinctive molecular phenotype of somatic BRAF mutations and widespread concordant methylation events in CpG islands (CIMP). These features are also observed in the polyps developing in individuals with hyperplastic polyposis syndrome (HPS). In HPS, multiple serrated polyps develop in the colorectum, and approximately 50% of cases present with at least one CRC. Observations of rare affected sibships including identical twins, suggest a recessive or co-dominant mode of inheritance. In addition, up to 50% of individuals with HPS report a family history of CRC. At a population level, recent work has demonstrated that patients with serrated pathway cancers characterized by BRAF mutation are four times more likely to have a family history of CRC than patients with common CRC. These findings suggest an increased genetic predisposition for serrated pathway CRC in the wider population. We propose that HPS results from the inheritance of two putative co-dominant alleles in approximately 1 in 2000 individuals. Therefore carriers of one co-dominant allele may number up to 1 in 25, and it is likely that these carriers are at increased risk of CRC, accounting for, at least in part, the burden of serrated pathway CRC in the population. This proposition may have important implications for screening and prevention of CRC in individuals who have an increased risk for development of serrated pathway cancers, namely those with multiple, proximal, large or advanced serrated polyps, and their relatives.
- BRAF mutation
- familial colorectal cancer
- genetic predisposition
- hyperplastic polyposis syndrome
- serrated neoplasia
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