Evidence for breast cancer as an integral part of Lynch syndrome

Genes Chromosomes Cancer. 2012 Jan;51(1):83-91. doi: 10.1002/gcc.20935. Epub 2011 Oct 27.


Lynch syndrome, an autosomal dominant cancer predisposition caused by mutations in DNA mismatch repair (MMR) genes, mainly mainly mutL homolog 1, OMIM 120436 (MLH1) and mutS homolog 2, OMIM 609309 (MSH2), encompasses a tumor spectrum including primarily gastrointestinal, endometrial, and ovarian cancer. This study aimed at clarifying the heavily debated issue of breast cancer being part of Lynch syndrome. Detailed clinical data on cancer occurrence in Swiss female MLH1/MSH2 mutation carriers were gathered, all available breast cancer specimens assessed for molecular evidence for MMR deficiency (i.e., microsatellite instability (MSI), MMR protein expression, and somatic (epi)genetic MMR gene alterations) and compiled with the scarce molecular data available from the literature. Seventy unrelated Swiss Lynch syndrome families were investigated comprising 632 female family members at risk of which 92 were genetically verified mutation carriers (52 MLH1 and 40 MSH2). On contrast to endometrial and ovarian cancer, which occurred significantly more often and at younger age in MLH1/MSH2 mutation carriers (median 50.5 and 49.0 years; P < 0.00001), overall cumulative breast cancer incidence closely mirrored the one in the Swiss population (56.5 years). Six (85.7%) of seven breast cancer specimens available for molecular investigations displayed the hallmarks of MMR deficiency. Combined with data from the literature, MSI was present in 26 (70.3%) of 37 and altered MMR protein expression in 16 (72.7%) of 22 breast cancer specimens from MLH1/MSH2 mutation carriers. These findings, thus, provide strong molecular evidence for a pivotal role of MMR deficiency in breast cancer development in Lynch syndrome.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptor Proteins, Signal Transducing / genetics
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Breast Neoplasms / complications*
  • Breast Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms, Hereditary Nonpolyposis / complications*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms, Hereditary Nonpolyposis / genetics*
  • DNA Mismatch Repair
  • Female
  • Germ-Line Mutation
  • Heterozygote
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Middle Aged
  • MutL Protein Homolog 1
  • MutS Homolog 2 Protein / genetics
  • Neoplasms / complications
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Neoplasms / genetics
  • Nuclear Proteins / genetics


  • Adaptor Proteins, Signal Transducing
  • MLH1 protein, human
  • Nuclear Proteins
  • MutL Protein Homolog 1
  • MutS Homolog 2 Protein