Hereditary gastrointestinal polyposis syndromes can be divided into adenomatous and hamartomatous types. Familial adenomatous polyposis coli (FAPC) is the prototype adenomatous polyposis syndrome and is defined by the autosomal dominant transmission of multiple (more than 100) colorectal adenomas. Virtually all affected patients develop colorectal carcinoma if untreated. Adenomas may develop also in the stomach and small bowel in FAPC patients, but the incidence of carcinoma in these sites is low. A variety of extracolonic manifestations has been reported in FAPC, with the name Gardner's syndrome applied to kindreds with osteomas of the skull and mandible, multiple epidermal cysts, and other skin and soft-tissue lesions. In Turcot's syndrome, brain tumors are present. The distinction between Gardner's and Turcot's syndromes and classical FAPC has become blurred because of marked overlap between them; some authorities consider them to be varying manifestations of a single genetic defect. The hamartomatous polyposes include Peutz-Jeghers syndrome, familial juvenile polyposis, Cowden's disease, intestinal ganglioneuromatosis, and the Ruvalcaba-Myrhe-Smith syndrome. The incidence of gastrointestinal cancer in patients with Peutz-Jeghers syndrome and familial juvenile polyposis exceeds that in the normal population, but is relatively low. In Cowden's disease, the gastrointestinal tract may be the site of multiple hamartomas, but there is no associated increase in the incidence of gastrointestinal cancers; instead, there is an increased incidence of carcinoma of the breast and thyroid. Intestinal ganglioneuromatosis occurs in von Recklinghausen's disease, in association with multiple endocrine neoplasia, type 2b, or as an isolated abnormality. Patients with ganglioneuromatosis do not appear to have an increased risk of developing gastrointestinal cancer. Ruvalcaba-Myrhe-Smith syndrome comprises macrocephaly, mental deficiency, an unusual craniofacial appearance, hamartomatous intestinal polyposis, and pigmented macules on the penis. No increased risk of developing cancer has been identified in the few reported cases.