Hereditary Diffuse Gastric Cancer

Inherited syndromes cause an estimated 1-3% of cases of stomach cancer. Hereditary Diffuse Gastric Cancer (HDGC) is an inherited cancer syndrome that leads to an increased risk for both diffuse gastric cancer and lobular breast cancer. Patients who inherit the genetic mutation for HDGC are at high risk of developing stomach cancer at a young age.

Other Inherited Cancer Syndromes

History of HDGC

Walk Photo AfAmer family

In 1964, stomach cancer was noted in a Maori tribal family in New Zealand, following an autosomal dominant pattern of inheritance. CDH1 gene mutations were first described in patients from three Maori families in 1998. The International Gastric Cancer Linkage Consortium (IGCLC) was formed, and the name “Hereditary Diffuse Gastric Cancer” was introduced. Families with multiple cases of diffuse gastric cancer, lobular breast cancer, or both may be affected by hereditary diffuse gastric cancer syndrome.

Diffuse Gastric Cancer

HDGC leads to cancer called diffuse-type, signet ring cell gastric adenocarcinoma. These signet ring cells appear as isolated cells or in small clusters in the lining of the stomach. Unfortunately, the diffuse type of gastric cancer associated with HDGC is challenging to diagnose because the tumor is not visible on the upper endoscopy (looking into the stomach with a small camera). For this reason, most cases of diffuse gastric cancer are diagnosed at late stages (III or IV) and associated with a lower survival rate.

National Library of Medicine Genetics Home Reference for HDGC

Hereditary Diffuse Gastric Cancer Syndrome and the Role of CDH1 – A Review (2021)

Lobular Breast Cancer

Women from HDGC families should be followed by oncologists or breast surgeons and have clinical breast exams regularly. Screening with yearly breast MRI, which can be combined with mammograms, is recommended starting at age 30. There is a possible role for preventive hormone-blocking medications to reduce lobular breast cancer risk in CDH1 mutation carriers. If there are many breast cancer cases in the family, prophylactic mastectomy may also be considered, but mastectomy is not routinely recommended.

Future of HDGC

Research on the genetics, diagnosis and treatment of HDGC is ongoing. Centers of Excellence have been established worldwide, and experts from the International Gastric Cancer Linkage Consortium continue to work together to develop new guidelines and recommendations for patients and families affected by HDGC. The next IGCLC HDGC Guidelines Meeting to discuss updates to the guidelines will take place March 16-18th 2019, in Wanaka, Aotearoa, New Zealand. You can connect directly with Dr. Parry Guilford at the University of Otago to inquire about attending.

Clinical Guidelines for Hereditary Stomach Cancer Syndromes

The American College of Gastroenterology Clinical Guideline: Genetic Testing and Management of Hereditary Gastrointestinal Cancer Syndromes.

Hereditary Diffuse Gastric Cancer: Updated clinical guidelines with an emphasis on germline CDH1 mutation carriers.

Establishing a Center of Excellence for hereditary diffuse
gastric cancer syndrome

Published January 3, 2019, in the Journal of Surgical Oncology. You may request access to the article from one of the co-authors, Dr. Jeremy Davis.

Medical Centers for the treatment and care of Hereditary Diffuse Gastric Cancer

Clinical Trials and Research Studies for Hereditary Stomach Cancer

Researchers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) seek individuals with hereditary stomach (gastric) cancer or who are at risk for developing stomach cancer because of a genetic (inherited) condition. Hereditary stomach cancers run in families, meaning they are passed down from one generation to the next.

View and download more information on this study.


Ford JM. Inherited susceptibility to gastric cancer: advances in genetics and guidelines for clinical management. American Society of Clinical Oncology Educational Sessions. 2002:116-125.

Huntsman DG, Carneiro F, Lewis FR, MacLeod PM, Hayashi A, Monaghan KG, et al. Early gastric cancer in young, asymptomatic carriers of germ-line E-cadherin mutations. The New England Journal of Medicine. June 2001;344(25):1904-1909.

Francis WP, Rodrigues DM, Perez NE, Lonardo F, Weaver D, Webber JD. Prophylactic laparoscopic-assisted total gastrectomy for hereditary diffuse gastric cancer. Journal of the Society of Laparoendoscopic Surgeons. 2007;11:142-147.

Caldas C, Carneiro F, Lynch HT, Yokota J, Wiesner GL, et al. Familial gastric cancer: overview and management guidelines. Journal of Medical Genetics. 1999;36:873-880.