Quiz May Predict Genetic Colon Cancer

A new quiz may show the odds of getting Lynch syndrome, an inherited form of colon cancer.

The 22-question quiz, described in The Journal of the American Medical Association, focuses on personal and family medical history. Researchers created the quiz to help screen people at risk for Lynch syndrome.

Lynch syndrome is rare, but it's "the most common hereditary colorectal cancer syndrome in Western countries, accounting for 2 percent to 5 percent of all colorectal cancers," write the researchers.

They included Judith Balmana, M.D.. She helped develop the new quiz while on staff at Boston's Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and now works in Barcelona, Spain, at the Universitat Autonoma Barcelona.

The quiz is an "objective, easy-to-use tool," write Balmana and colleagues. Quiz questions include a personal or family history of colon cancer, endometrial cancer, and age at diagnosis. The test was based on 898 people with a "personal or family history suggestive of Lynch syndrome," the researchers write.

Those patients had been referred for genetic testing to screen for two gene mutations associated with Lynch syndrome. About 14 percent of them had either of those mutations.

The researchers also gave the test to 1,106 people with Lynch syndrome; approximately 15 percent of them had the gene mutations.

The quiz "might well be used in the initial assessment of individuals at risk of Lynch syndrome," the researchers write.

Health care workers may also use the quiz "to decide whether to refer the patient for further risk assessment and whether to pursue molecular prescreening," Balmana's team adds.

Several of the researchers (but not Balmana) report having received honoraria or working for the genetics lab that conducted the study's genetic tests.

SOURCES: Balmana, J. The Journal of the American Medical Association, Sept. 27, 2006; Vol. 296: pp. 1469-1478. News release, JAMA/Archives.

By Miranda Hitti
Reviewed by Louise Chang, M.D