Cancer Risk Associated With PTEN Pathogenic Variants Identified Using Multigene Hereditary Cancer Panel Testing

JCO Precis Oncol. 2023 Jan;7:e2200415. doi: 10.1200/PO.22.00415.


Purpose: PTEN-associated clinical syndromes such as Cowden syndrome (CS) increase cancer risk and have historically been diagnosed based upon phenotypic criteria. Because not all patients clinically diagnosed with CS have PTEN pathogenic variants (PVs), and not all patients with PTEN PVs have been clinically diagnosed with CS, the cancer risk conferred by PTEN PVs calculated from cohorts of patients with clinical diagnoses of CS/CS-like phenotypes may be inaccurate.

Methods: We assessed a consecutive cohort of 727,091 individuals tested clinically for hereditary cancer risk, with a multigene panel between September 2013 and February 2022. Multivariable logistic regression models accounting for personal and family cancer history, age, sex, and ancestry were used to quantify disease risks associated with PTEN PVs.

Results: PTEN PVs were detected in 0.027% (193/727,091) of the study population, and were associated with a high risk of female breast cancer (odds ratio [OR], 7.88; 95% CI, 5.57 to 11.16; P = 2.3 × 10-31), endometrial cancer (OR, 13.51; 95% CI, 8.77 to 20.83; P = 4.2 × 10-32), thyroid cancer (OR, 4.88; 95% CI, 2.64 to 9.01; P = 4.0 × 10-7), and colon polyposis (OR, 31.60; CI, 15.60 to 64.02; P = 9.0 × 10-22). We observed modest evidence suggesting that PTEN PVs may be associated with ovarian cancer risk (OR, 3.77; 95% CI, 1.71 to 8.32; P = 9.9 × 10-4). Among patients with similar personal/family history and ancestry, every 5-year increase in age of diagnosis decreased the likelihood of detecting a PTEN PV by roughly 60%.

Conclusion: We demonstrate that PTEN PVs are associated with significantly increased risk for a range of cancers. Together with the observation that PTEN PV carriers had earlier disease onset relative to otherwise comparable noncarriers, our results may guide screening protocols, inform risk-management strategies, and warrant enhanced surveillance approaches that improve clinical outcomes for PTEN PV carriers, regardless of their clinical presentation.

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms* / genetics
  • Female
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease / genetics
  • Hamartoma Syndrome, Multiple* / diagnosis
  • Hamartoma Syndrome, Multiple* / genetics
  • Humans
  • PTEN Phosphohydrolase / genetics
  • Phenotype
  • Thyroid Neoplasms*


  • PTEN protein, human
  • PTEN Phosphohydrolase