Hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC), also termed Lynch syndrome, was originally called cancer family syndrome. Historically, in 1913 Aldred Warthin, a pathologist, published a family, now known as Family G, which had features of HNPCC. It was first delineated as a hereditary cancer syndrome in the mid-1960s by Lynch. There was an apparent autosomal dominant mode of inheritance of colorectal cancer and certain integral cancers, the most prominent of which was endometrial carcinoma. Prior to the discovery in 1993 and 1994 of genes (hMSH2, hMLH1, hPMS1, hPMS2) known as mismatch repair genes or mutator genes, the diagnosis of HNPCC rested exclusively upon evaluation of clinical findings in concert with a well-documented and extended pedigree. Thus, this disorder has evolved from a medical curiosity into a clinical syndrome wherein molecular biologists provided proof of its hereditary status. These discoveries should aid in elucidating its pathogenesis and carcinogenesis and in the next decade we likely will learn more about chemoprevention and surgical prophylaxis of HNPCC.

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