Purpose: Hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer is caused by germline mutations in DNA mismatch repair genes. Mutation carriers have a 60 to 85 percent risk of developing colorectal cancer. In the Netherlands hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer families are monitored in an intensive surveillance program. The aim of this study was to examine the stage of the screening-detected tumors in relation to the surveillance interval and to assess the risk of developing colorectal cancer while on the program.
Methods: The Dutch hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer family registry was used. A total of 114 families had a mismatch repair gene defect and/or met the clinical criteria for hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer. The interval between surveillance and colorectal cancer was investigated in initially healthy family members who underwent at least one surveillance examination without showing evidence for colorectal cancer (surveillance group) and in family members who previously underwent partial or subtotal colectomy for colorectal cancer. The risk of colorectal cancer was calculated for proven mutation carriers (surveillance group) and for putative carriers after partial or subtotal colectomy.
Results: A total of 35 cancers were detected while on the program. With intervals between colorectal cancer and the preceding surveillance examination of two years or less, tumors were at Dukes Stage A (n = 4), B (n = 11), and C (1). With intervals of more than two years, tumors were at Dukes Stage A (n = 3), B (n = 10), and C (n = 6). The 10-year cumulative risk of developing colorectal cancer was 10.5 (95 percent confidence interval, 3.8-17.2) percent in proven mutation carriers, 15.7 (95 percent confidence interval, 4.1-27.3) percent after partial colectomy, and 3.4 percent after subtotal colectomy.
Conclusion: There is a substantial risk of developing colorectal cancer while on the program. However, all tumors but one of subjects who underwent a surveillance examination two years or less before detection were at a local stage. We recommend surveillance for hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer with an interval of two years or less.