Pinpointing heritability factors is fundamental for the prevention and early detection of cancer. Up to one-quarter of colorectal cancers (CRCs) occur in the context of familial aggregation of this disease, suggesting a strong genetic component. Currently, only less than half of the heritability of CRC can be attributed to hereditary syndromes or common risk loci. Part of the missing heritability of this disease may be explained by the inheritance of elusive high-risk variants, polygenic inheritance, somatic mosaicism, as well as shared environmental factors, among others. A great deal of the missing heritability in CRC is expected to be addressed in the coming years with the increased application of cutting-edge next-generation sequencing technologies, routine multigene panel testing and tumour-focussed germline predisposition screening approaches. On the other hand, it will be important to define the contribution of environmental factors to familial aggregation of CRC incidence. This review provides an overview of the known genetic causes of familial CRC and aims at providing clues that explain the missing heritability of this disease.
© The Author(s) 2019. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the UK Environmental Mutagen Society.