Phenotypic heterogeneity of hereditary gynecologic cancers: a report from the Creighton hereditary cancer registry

Fam Cancer. 2013 Dec;12(4):719-40. doi: 10.1007/s10689-013-9651-x.


To determine the validity of observations suggesting a significant dichotomy of gynecologic cancers determined by linkage to specific genetic defects associated with two major autosomal dominant hereditary cancer syndromes; the Creighton University Hereditary Cancer Registry was searched for female carriers of germ line mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2, associated with the Hereditary Breast Ovarian Cancer syndrome, and in the mismatch repair (MMR) genes MLH1, MSH2 and MSH6, associated with Lynch syndrome, who were registered with invasive uterine, ovarian, fallopian tube or peritoneal cancers between January 1, 1959 and December 31, 2010. From 217 such cases, a total of 174 subjects, consisting of 95 BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutation carriers and 79 carriers of mutations in MMR genes, were identified who had current signed Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act forms and complete primary diagnostic pathology reports and clinical records. Data meticulously extracted from these cases were categorized and statistically analyzed. There were highly significant differences between carriers of BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations and carriers of MMR gene mutations in the proportion of serous carcinomas compared with endometrioid carcinomas of the uterus, including cervix and endometium (p < 0.002), ovaries (p < 0.001) and overall, including fallopian tube and peritoneum cancers (p < 0.001). Endometrioid carcinoma was found in one and transitional carcinoma in another of the 14 BRCA1 mutation carriers with fallopian tube cancer, and endometrioid carcinoma was found in two of four MMR gene mutation carriers with fallopian tube cancers. All other fallopian tube cancers were serous carcinomas. Seven BRCA1 and one BRCA2 mutation carriers were diagnosed with primary peritoneal serous carcinoma; no peritoneal carcinomas were registered in MMR gene mutation carriers. Nine of 14 gynecologic cancers with associated endometriosis in mutation carriers were endometrioid or endometrioid mixed carcinomas compared with just three of other histologic types. Primary breast cancers, that characterize the HBOC syndrome, were much more frequent in BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutation carriers; while multiple gynecologic cancers and associated colorectal and urinary tract cancers, which are features of Lynch syndrome, were more common in MMR gene mutation carriers. Both serous and endometrioid carcinomas were diagnosed in MMR gene mutation carriers at significantly younger ages than in BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutation carriers (p < 0.0006). These findings confirm a clear dichotomy of uterine, ovarian and fallopian tube cancers associated with inheritance of mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2 contrasted with inheritance of MMR gene mutations. This opens possibilities for new approaches to molecular genetic research into carcinogenic pathways and raises important new considerations regarding counseling, screening, prophylaxis and treatment of mutation carriers.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Colorectal Neoplasms, Hereditary Nonpolyposis / genetics*
  • DNA Repair Enzymes / genetics
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Genes, BRCA1
  • Genes, BRCA2
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease*
  • Genital Neoplasms, Female / classification
  • Genital Neoplasms, Female / genetics*
  • Heterozygote
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mutation / genetics
  • Pedigree
  • Peritoneal Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Phenotype
  • Prognosis
  • Registries / statistics & numerical data*
  • United States


  • DNA Repair Enzymes