Henry T. Lynch

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Henry T. Lynch
Born (1928-01-04) January 4, 1928 (age 89)
Lawrence, Massachusetts, USA
Nationality American
Alma mater
Occupation Physician
Known for Discovery of genetic causes of cancer

Henry T. Lynch (born January 4, 1928) is an American physician noted for his discovery of familial susceptibility to certain kinds of cancer and his research into genetic links to cancer. He is sometimes described as "the father of hereditary cancer detection and prevention"[1] or the "father of cancer genetics",[2] although Lynch himself said that title should go to the early 20th century pathologist Aldred Scott Warthin.[3] Lynch is the chairman of preventive medicine at Creighton University School of Medicine in Omaha, Nebraska and holds the Charles F. and Mary C. Heider Endowed Chair in Cancer Research.

Early life and education[edit]

Lynch was born in Lawrence, Massachusetts and grew up in New York City. He dropped out of high school at 14 and joined the U. S. Navy at age 16, using false identification to disguise his age.[4] He served as a gunner during World War II. After his discharge in 1946 he became a professional boxer under the nickname "Hammerin' Hank".[5] After obtaining a high school equivalency, he received a bachelor's degree from the University of Oklahoma in 1951 and a master's degree in clinical psychology from the University of Denver in 1952. He studied for a Ph.D. in human genetics from the University of Texas at Austin and received an M.D. from the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston in 1960. He interned at St. Mary's Hospital in Evansville, Indiana and completed a residency in internal medicine at the University of Nebraska College of Medicine.[5]


He served as an assistant professor at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, then joined the faculty at Creighton University in 1967. Noting that some cancer patients had relatives and ancestors with the same type of cancer, Lynch postulated that cancer could be hereditary. He began to focus his research on that possibility, although it was considered unlikely by the medical establishment of the time, which was focused on environmental causes of cancer; in fact the American Cancer Society frequently stated that cancer was not hereditary.[4] In 1970 he applied for a research grant from the National Institutes of Health, citing a family in which numerous members had colon cancer, but the grant application was rejected, as were most of his other grant applications over the following 20 years.[6] He persisted, compiling data and statistics that demonstrated patterns of "cancer syndromes" through multiple generations of families. He defined the necessary criteria for a genetic cancer: early age of onset of the disease, specific pattern of multiple primary cancers, and Mendelian patterns of inheritance in hundreds of extended families worldwide.[6] His theory of genetically based cancers was eventually accepted. His best-known example, hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer, is the most common form of hereditary colorectal cancer and is generally known as Lynch syndrome. He demonstrated the Mendelian inheritance pattern for certain breast and ovarian cancers, which laid the groundwork for the identification of specific genes responsible for these familial cancers, such as BRCA1 and BRCA2.[6]

In 1984 he established the Hereditary Cancer Prevention Clinic at Creighton, which focuses on identifying risk factors, promoting early detection, and preventing the onset of familial cancers.[6] Under his leadership Creighton also hosts a High Risk Registry, part of the Early Detection Research Network sponsored by the National Cancer Institute.[7] The Registry allows the Network to educate individual patients about their genetic risk status.[8]


Lynch has written hundreds of articles and several books, including[6]


Lynch has received several awards:


  1. ^ "Lynch Syndrome: An Interview With the Father of Hereditary Cancer Detection and Prevention, Henry T. Lynch, MD". Interview with the Innovators. The Oncology Pharmacist. March 2013. Retrieved 25 November 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c "Henry T. Lynch, M.D.". North Shore University Health System. Retrieved 25 November 2013. 
  3. ^ Robertson, Erle S. (editor) (2012). "1. Peyton Rous". Cancer Associated Viruses. Springer. p. 5. ISBN 978-1-4614-0016-5. 
  4. ^ a b Cantor, David (July 1, 2006). "The Frustrations of Families: Henry Lynch, Heredity, and Cancer Control, 1962–1975". Medical History. 50 (3): 279–302. doi:10.1017/S0025727300009996. PMC 1483189Freely accessible. PMID 16902702. 
  5. ^ a b "A Tribute to Dr. Henry T. Lynch". Lynch Syndrome International. Archived from the original on 3 December 2013. Retrieved 25 November 2013. 
  6. ^ a b c d e "Chair of Preventive Medicine: Henry Lynch, MD". Creighton University School of Medicine. Archived from the original on 21 January 2014. Retrieved 25 November 2013. 
  7. ^ "Early Detection Research Network". Creighton University School of Medicine. Archived from the original on 13 September 2013. Retrieved 25 November 2013. 
  8. ^ Lynch, Henry T.; et al. (Sep–Oct 2009). "Family Information Service Participation Increases the Rates of Mutation Testing among Members of Families with BRCA1/2 Mutations". The Breast Journal. 15 (supplement 1): S20–S24. doi:10.1111/j.1524-4741.2009.00807.x. PMC 2760017Freely accessible. PMID 19775326. 
  9. ^ "Previous Brinker Award winners". Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. Retrieved 25 November 2013. 
  10. ^ "ASCO - American Cancer Society Award and Lecture". American Society of Clinical Oncology. Archived from the original on 3 December 2013. Retrieved 25 November 2013.