Hereditary Cancer Program
Center Pointe II
1100 Johnson Ferry Rd., Suite 355
Atlanta, GA 30342
Phone: (404) 851-6284


If you would like to learn more about genetic counseling and the implications of genetic testing, please attend one of our free monthly genetics education classes (Atlanta campus).

Hereditary Cancer - Colorectal Cancer and Polyps

As the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths, colorectal cancer affects more than 130,000 men and women each year. Most of these cases are sporadic; however about 5-10% of colon cancers are hereditary.

The most common cause of hereditary colon cancer is a condition called Lynch syndrome. Individuals and families with Lynch syndrome tend to have colon cancers diagnosed at earlier ages (before 50), and also may have other types of cancer diagnosed themselves or in close relatives including endometrial (uterine), gastric (stomach), ovarian, kidney, pancreatic and small bowel. Anyone with several of these cancers in themselves and/or their close relatives could consider a genetics evaluation for Lynch syndrome.

There is another hereditary form of colon cancer that can cause people to develop many polyps in their colon. Sometimes these polyps are pre-cancerous (also called adenomas) and sometimes they aren’t, but they are still present in large numbers (more than 20). If you or close family members have had many polyps removed throughout their lifetime, it could be due to an inherited risk. Sometimes these family members may have had a cancer diagnosis, but not always. Colonoscopy results aren’t often shared among family members, so it’s important to ask your close relatives about their colon polyp history since this could give important clues as to whether there is an inherited risk in a family.

There have also been newer genes discovered that can lead to increased colon cancer risks in families. Testing has expanded to include these genes and meeting with a Northside genetic counselor is the best way to receive up to date information about hereditary risk for colon cancer.

Consider making an appointment if you have any of the following red flags in your personal or family history:

  • Colon cancer diagnosed before age 50
  • Endometrial (uterine) cancer diagnosed before age 50
  • Colon, uterine, gastric, pancreatic, small bowel, kidney, or ovarian cancers diagnosed in three or more family members (or yourself and two family members)
  • More than five pre-cancerous polyps (total in a lifetime)
  • Unusual types of polyps found during colonoscopy including juvenile polyps and hamartomatous polyps

Genetic testing for hereditary cancer risk can be valuable to you for several reasons.

  • If you have already had a cancer diagnosis it can help to determine if you are at increased risk of developing a second cancer in another part of the body.
  • Each child of a parent with a gene mutation has a 50/50 chance for inheriting the altered genes.
  • Knowing that you have an inherited risk can help determine your risk and your family's risk for other cancers and assist your doctor in recommending appropriate cancer screening measures. 

Northside Hospital - Atlanta

1000 Johnson Ferry Road NE
Atlanta, GA 30342
(404) 851-8000

Northside Hospital - Cherokee

201 Hospital Road
Canton, GA 30114
(770) 720-5100

Northside Hospital - Forsyth

1200 Northside Forsyth Drive
Cumming, GA 30041
(770) 844-3200

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