Prevalence of alterations in DNA mismatch repair genes in patients with young-onset colorectal cancer

Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2011 Jun;9(6):497-502. doi: 10.1016/j.cgh.2010.10.021. Epub 2010 Nov 5.


Background & aims: Direct germline analysis could be used to screen high-risk patients for mutations in DNA mismatch repair genes associated with Lynch Syndrome. We examined the prevalence of mutations in MLH1, MSH2, and MSH6 in a population-based sample of patients with young-onset (age <50 years) colorectal cancer (CRC).

Methods: Young-onset CRC cases were randomly selected from 3 Colon Cancer Family Registry sites. DNA was extracted from peripheral blood leukocytes; MLH1, MSH2, and MSH6 were sequenced, and duplication and deletion analyses was performed for MLH1 and MSH2. Results were reported as deleterious or suspected deleterious, likely neutral, variant of uncertain significance, or no alteration detected. Germline data were compared to Amsterdam II criteria (ACII) and immunohistochemistry results in secondary analyses.

Results: Among 195 subjects, 11 had deleterious/suspected deleterious mutations (5.6%; 95% confidence interval [CI], 2.8%-9.9%), 12 had likely neutral alterations (6.2%; 95% CI, 3.2%-10.5%), 14 had variants of uncertain significance (7.2%; 95% CI, 4.0%-11.8%), 2 had a likely neutral alteration and a variant of uncertain significance (1.0%; 95% CI, 0.1%-3.7%), and 156 had no alteration detected (80.0%; 95% CI, 73.7%-85.4%). Sensitivity, specificity, and positive and negative predictive values for detecting deleterious/suspected deleterious mutations, based on ACII, were 36.4% (4/11), 96.7% (178/184), 40.0% (4/10), and 96.2% (178/185), respectively; based on immunohistochemistry these values were 85.7% (6/7), 91.9% (136/148), 33.3% (6/18), and 99.3% (136/137), respectively.

Conclusions: In a population-based sample of young-onset CRC cases, germline mutations in MLH1, MSH, and/or MSH6 were more prevalent than reported for CRC patients overall. Because only about 5% of young-onset CRC cases had confirmed deleterious or suspected deleterious mutations, further comparative effectiveness research is needed to determine the most appropriate screening strategy for Lynch Syndrome in this high-risk group.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adaptor Proteins, Signal Transducing / genetics*
  • Adult
  • Colorectal Neoplasms, Hereditary Nonpolyposis / diagnosis*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms, Hereditary Nonpolyposis / genetics*
  • DNA Mismatch Repair*
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / genetics*
  • Female
  • Gene Deletion
  • Gene Duplication
  • Genetic Testing / methods
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • MutL Protein Homolog 1
  • MutS Homolog 2 Protein / genetics*
  • Mutation*
  • Nuclear Proteins / genetics*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prevalence
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA


  • Adaptor Proteins, Signal Transducing
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • G-T mismatch-binding protein
  • MLH1 protein, human
  • Nuclear Proteins
  • MSH2 protein, human
  • MutL Protein Homolog 1
  • MutS Homolog 2 Protein