Familial adenomatous polyposis is an inherited condition that typically presents with extensive adenomatous polyps of the colon. These polyps often develop into colorectal cancer in early adult life. Other symptoms are often present as well. These signs include polyps in the upper gastrointestinal tract, malignancies in the brain or thyroid, pigmented retinal lesions, and osteomas.
Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) was first clearly described as a dominantly inherited colorectal cancer susceptibility by Lockhart-Mummery in an article published in 1925. FAP has since served as a paradigm for hereditary cancer and has taught much about the diagnosis, surveillance, and management of colon cancer. It is one of the most clearly defined and well understood of the inherited colon cancer syndromes. FAP is thought to account for approximately 1% of all cases of colorectal cancer.
FAP is a disorder that is characterized by the development of hundreds to thousands of glandular colorectal tumors called adenomas or adenomatous polyps, meaning that they are benign growths made of the tissue that lines the inside of the colon. They are described as polyps because they protrude from mucous membranes. In FAP, these tumors generally develop by the second or third decade of life. They are found in the internal lining of the colon and the rectum, with a particular affinity for the left side of the colon or the rectosigmoid. By themselves, these polyps are benign but they have the ability to become malignant, leading to colorectal cancer. If the polyps are not treated properly, it is almost certain that a person affected with FAP will develop colorectal cancer by the age of 40.
Other clinical findings that may be associated with FAP include polyps in the upper gastrointestinal tract, extraintestinal manifestations such as osteomas and epidermoid cysts, desmoid formation, retinal lesions, and malignant changes in other organs. Symptoms are thought to manifest anywhere between the ages of 16 and 50 years.
FAP is also known as familial polyposis coli (FPC) and adenomatous polyposis coli (APC). Gardner syndrome and Turcot syndrome are variants of FAP. Gardner syndrome is used to describe patients with FAP and the extracolonic symptoms of osteomas, soft tissue tumors, desmoids, and dental abnormalities. Turcot syndrome is used when FAP is seen in conjunction with tumors of the central nervous system called medulloblastomas (cerebral tumors that occur in childhood). Attenuated FAP (AFAP) is another variant of FAP. In this condition, individuals present with fewer polyps, usually fewer than 100 in number and often in the right colon. Patients with AFAP may have a later onset of cancer than those with classic FAP.
Mary E. Freivogel MS, The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit,