Genetic counseling in hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer

Abdelhamid Heouaine, Cristina Mareni, Liliana Varesco, Maurizio Genuardi, Giovanni Neri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Genetic counseling is a medical process aimed at providing information about disease risks for hereditary conditions. For adult-onset diseases, such as cancer, the main purpose consists in formulating probability estimates of disease appearance, along with details on preventive or follow-up measures. The process of genetic counseling has been substantially modified by the availability of molecular tests to identify mutant gene carriers. So far, 16 autosomal dominant genes associated with cancer susceptibility have been cloned. Four of these, which encode for components of the DNA mismatch repair machinery, have been implicated in hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer, one of the most common hereditary cancer syndromes. Genetic counseling and testing in hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer is associated with several problems that are common to other hereditary conditions (psychologic consequences, confidentiality, genetic 'discrimination', testing of minors, prenatal diagnosis) and peculiar to the specific condition (incomplete penetrance, genotypic and phenotypic heterogeneity, limits of currently available tests). For such reasons, genetic testing should be performed in qualified research laboratories and restricted to highly selected families. In this way, pilot studies, involving both clinicians and researchers, can be undertaken with the aim of providing comprehensive results, potentially applicable to other cancer-predisposing conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)136-142
Number of pages7
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 1996


  • cancer
  • DNA repair
  • genetic counseling
  • genetic testing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research


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