Hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC), predominantly due to germline MLH1/MSH2 mutations, is the commonest form of hereditary colorectal cancer (CRC), but data in Asians are sparse. We sequenced the MLH1/MSH2 coding and promoter core regions in CRC patients diagnosed below age 40, and/or with multiple primary cancers or familial cancer clustering suggestive of HNPCC, and correlated deleterious mutations with clinical and tumour features. Forty-six Chinese, Malay and Indian kindreds participated. Of the 153 cancers reported in the 46 kindreds, stomach (14%) and urogenital cancers (13%) were the most common extracolonic cancers, whereas endometrial cancer comprised only 7%. Eleven different MLH1 and 12 MSH2 mutations were identified, including nine novel and four recurring mutations in the Chinese. One Indian was a compound heterozygote for an MLH1 and MSH2 mutation. The MLH1/MSH2 mutation data in the Malays and the Indians represents the first in these ethnic groups. Factors strongly associated with deleterious mutations were the Amsterdam criteria, family history of stomach or multiple primary cancers, and MSI-high tumours, whereas family history of endometrial cancer and young cancer age alone correlated poorly. Distinct clinical and molecular characteristics were identified among Asian HNPCC kindreds and may have important clinical implications.
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