Lynch syndrome (HNPCC) is an autosomal dominant hereditary cancer syndrome, and members of affected families are at-risk for developing colorectal and other associated tumors. Such individuals should disseminate familial genetic information, so they can seek specific medical assessment or genetic testing to reduce mortality and morbidity rates by early detection. Since published results have been encouraging, we explored which factors influence the likelihood of good communication within families regarding medical assessment. We studied 40 individuals from 33 families who satisfied the Japanese clinical criteria for Lynch syndrome and their relatives at our hospital. We determined the status of relatives of the 40 individuals after genetic counseling and testing using questionnaires and semi-structured interviews based on pedigree charts. We also examined their knowledge or perception of colorectal cancer syndrome, levels of intimacy and whether or not they encouraged their relatives to have specific medical assessments. We found that 75% of the individuals advised their relatives to seek medical assessment, and any significant background factors that promoted such encouragement were observed. They tended to encourage first degree relatives and discuss the issue with other family members such as spouses before undertaking such attempts at encouragement. The reasons and methods of imparting encouragement were essentially identical. We also found that genetic testing for at-risk or more distant relatives was not encouraged so often. Therefore, providing individuals who have been tested for Lynch syndrome with opportunities for disseminating familial genetic information through appropriate genetic counseling is important.
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