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June 5, 2019

AGA remembers Dr. Henry T. Lynch, ‘father of cancer genetics’

Henry T. Lynch, MD, died June 2 at age 91 of congestive heart failure. He leaves behind a legacy that has saved thousands of lives.

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Dr. Lynch came from a humble background, growing up in a rough neighborhood in New York City. He enlisted in the Navy and served in the South Pacific during World War II. Afterwards, Dr. Lynch focused his efforts on completing his education which eventually lead him to the medical field. 

A patient he encountered in 1962 — an alcoholic that drank because he believed he would die of colon cancer since everyone in his family had — was the catalyst for his groundbreaking work into the possibility of a hereditary component to some forms of cancer. During this time, it was understood that carcinogenic chemicals and viruses were the primary cause of cancer. 

Dr. Lynch provided the first complete description of hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer, a form of colon cancer eventually renamed Lynch syndrome. He continued his research, eventually identifying a hereditary form of breast and ovarian cancers, melanoma, and prostate and pancreatic cancers. His efforts also resulted in one of the world’s largest databases of family cancer histories. For more on Dr. Lynch’s accomplishments, read his obituary in the Washington Post

Members are sharing their stories and the impact Dr. Lynch had on their work in the AGA Community

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