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Cancer Genetics

Gastric Polyps and Stomach Cancer Genetics

10/24/2002

Question:

My grandfather had stomach cancer. I had an upper endoscopy that found stomach polyps. They were biopsied and were benign. My doctor says they are harmless and to forget about them but I read that gastric polyps are a risk factor for stomach cancer. Could you give me any information? Thank you very much.

Answer:

Stomach cancer is caused by a variety of factors, many of them having to do with diet. The following web-site has some information about possible causes of stomach cancer: http://www.cancer.gov/cancerinfo/wyntk/stomach Concerning the finding of stomach polyps, they are not uncommonly found in individuals having upper endoscopy. Typically, they are removed and a pathologist will examine them to determine if they are potentially cancerous, or if they are benign and with little potential to develop into cancer. And, remember that they were removed, and thus are no longer a problem. Most likely, your doctor has told you not to worry, but also to schedule another endoscopy at some time in the future. This is to see if more return, and should be removed. Now, in a few genetic syndromes, stomach polyps are a presenting feature. These syndromes are very rare, and usually an individual will have a strong family history of cancers, including colon cancer, stomach cancer, possibly small intestinal cancer or other cancers. If you do indeed have a strong family history of these types of cancers, or a family history of any other types of cancers, I suggest you consider talking with a medical geneticist or a genetic counselor for a formal genetic evaluation. The easiest way to find a genetic counselor in your area is to go to the following website: http://www.nsgc.org/ Clinic on `Genetic Counseling`, and then go to `How to find a Genetic Counselor.` You will be able to discuss with a genetic counselor your concerns and whether an appointment would be appropriate. I hope this information has been helpful.

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Response by:

Duane D Culler, PhD, MS Duane D Culler, PhD, MS
Clinical Instructor of Genetics
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University