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Penetrance of HNPCC-related cancers in a retrolective cohort of 12 large Newfoundland families carrying a MSH2 founder mutation: an evaluation using modified segregation models

Karen A Kopciuk1*, Yun-Hee Choi2, Elena Parkhomenko3, Patrick Parfrey4, John McLaughlin56, Jane Green7 and Laurent Briollais6

Author Affiliations

1 Division of Population Health Research, Alberta Health Services Board, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

2 Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, The University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada

3 Research Institute, Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

4 Clinical Epidemiology Unit, Memorial University, St John's, Newfoundland, Canada

5 Population Studies and Surveillance, Cancer Care Ontario, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

6 Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute, Mount Sinai Hospital, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

7 Discipline of Genetics, Memorial University, St John's, Newfoundland, Canada

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Hereditary Cancer in Clinical Practice 2009, 7:16  doi:10.1186/1897-4287-7-16

Published: 28 October 2009



Accurate risk (penetrance) estimates for associated phenotypes in carriers of a major disease gene are important for genetic counselling of at-risk individuals. Population-specific estimates of penetrance are often needed as well. Families ascertained from high-risk disease clinics provide substantial data to estimate penetrance of a disease gene, but these estimates must be adjusted for possible specific sources of bias.


A cohort of 12 independently ascertained HNPCC families harbouring a founder MSH2 mutation was identified from a cancer genetics clinic in St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada. Carrier status was known for 247 family members but phenotype information on up to 85 additional relatives with unknown carrier status was available; using modified segregation models these additional individuals could be included in the analyses. Three HNPCC-related phenotypes were evaluated as age at diagnosis of: any HNPCC cancer (first cancer), colorectal cancer (CRC), and endometrial cancer (EC) for females.


Lifetime (age 70) risk estimates for male and female carriers were similar for developing any HNPCC cancer (Males = 98.2%, 95% Confidence Interval (CI) = (93.8%, 99.9%); Females = 92.8%, 95% CI = (82.4%, 99.1%)) but female carriers experienced substantially reduced lifetime risk for developing CRC compared to male carriers (Females = 38.9%, 95% CI = (24.2%, 62.1%); Males = 84.5%, 95% CI = (67.3%, 91.3%)). Female non-carriers had very low lifetime risk for these two outcomes while male non-carriers had lifetime risks intermediate to the female carriers and non-carriers. Female carriers had a lifetime risk of developing EC of 82.4%. Relative risks for developing any HNPCC cancer (carriers relative to non-carriers) were substantially greater for females compared to their male counterparts (Females = 54.8, 95%CI = (4.4, 379.8); Males = 9.7, 95% CI = (0.3, 23.8)). Relative risks for developing CRC at age 70 were substantially greater for females compared to their male counterparts (Females = 23.7, 95%CI = (5.6, 137.9); Males = 6.8%, 95% CI = (2.3, 66.2)). However, the risk of developing CRC decreased with age among both genders.


The proposed modified segregation-based models used to estimate age-specific risks for HNPCC phenotypes can reduce bias due to ascertainment and missing genotype information as well as provide estimates of absolute and relative risks.