Smoking Linked to Colorectal Cancer in Patients With Lynch Syndrome

SALT LAKE CITY (October 28, 2019) – Cigarette smokers with Lynch syndrome stand a greater chance of having more than one colorectal cancer diagnosis in their lifetime, but are less likely to receive a cancer diagnosis before age 50, according to a new study.

The research will be presented at the 2019 Collaborative Group of the Americas (CGA) Annual Meeting by Beth Dudley, MS, MPH, a genetic counselor at the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center. The annual meeting is being held November 3-5, 2019, in Salt Lake City. Michael Hall, MD, MS, chair of the Department of Clinical Genetics at Fox Chase Cancer Center, is president of the CGA.

Lynch syndrome (LS) is a genetic condition that predisposes people to increased risk for colorectal and other types of cancer. It is caused by inherited mutations in genes called MLH1, MSH2, MSH6, PMS2, and EPCAM.

Research has shown that stopping smoking could decrease the risk of developing colorectal cancer in those with LS.

“Previous studies showed that smoking does increase risk for colon cancer in those with Lynch, but there’s very little data about how it affects age of diagnosis or number of cancer diagnoses,” said Dudley.

Dudley and her team analyzed 237 Lynch syndrome patients from their own registries who either smoked or never smoked.

Overall, smokers were more likely to develop more than one colorectal cancer, but surprisingly, nonsmokers who developed cancer were significantly younger than smokers when they received their first diagnosis. Smokers were about 52 years old at the time of first diagnosis. Nonsmokers were about 45 years old. What’s more, nonsmokers were more likely to be diagnosed with their first cancer before age 50 than smokers.

The researchers are unsure why nonsmokers in their registries were more likely to be diagnosed with cancer at younger ages than smokers, but Dudley emphasizes: “We aren’t telling people with Lynch syndrome that they should smoke. One possibility is that individuals with Lynch syndrome who are diagnosed with cancer at younger ages might have other hidden factors that increase their cancer risk, whereas lifestyle risk factors play a larger role for people who are diagnosed with cancer later in life. Ultimately, more research is needed to determine if these findings hold true in studies of larger groups of individuals with Lynch syndrome.  If they do, further research to identify the reason would be warranted.”


About UPMC Hillman Cancer Center
UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, the region’s only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, is one of the largest integrated community cancer networks in the United States. Backed by the collective strength of UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, UPMC Hillman Cancer Center has more than 60 locations throughout Pennsylvania and Ohio with cancer centers and partnerships internationally. Consistently ranked by U.S. News & World Report for excellence in cancer care, the more than 2,000 physicians, researchers and staff are leaders in molecular and cellular cancer biology, cancer immunology, cancer virology, biobehavioral oncology, and cancer epidemiology, prevention, and therapeutics. UPMC Hillman Cancer Center is transforming cancer research, care, and prevention — one patient at a time.

UPMC Media Contact: Erin Hare, 412-738-1097,

The Hospital of Fox Chase Cancer Center and its affiliates (collectively “Fox Chase Cancer Center”), a member of the Temple University Health System, is one of the leading cancer research and treatment centers in the United States. Founded in 1904 in Philadelphia as one of the nation’s first cancer hospitals, Fox Chase was also among the first institutions to be designated a National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center in 1974. Fox Chase researchers have won the highest awards in their fields, including two Nobel Prizes. Fox Chase physicians are also routinely recognized in national rankings, and the Center’s nursing program has received the Magnet recognition for excellence five consecutive times. Today, Fox Chase conducts a broad array of nationally competitive basic, translational, and clinical research, with special programs in cancer prevention, detection, survivorship and community outreach. It is the policy of Fox Chase Cancer Center that there shall be no exclusion from, or participation in, and no one denied the benefits of, the delivery of quality medical care on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity/expression, disability, age, ancestry, color, national origin, physical ability, level of education, or source of payment.


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