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Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD)

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Diffuse gastric cancer

Other Names for this Disease
  • Signet cell adenocarcinoma
  • Signet ring cell carcinoma
  • Signet ring cell gastric carcinoma
  • Signet ring gastric carcinoma
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Your Question

My brother was diagnosed with signet ring cell gastric carcinoma. I was told that this is a genetic condition. Is testing available for this cancer? Who should I talk to if I want to be tested? Can excessive drinking cause it?

Our Answer

We have identified the following information that we hope you find helpful. If you still have questions, please contact us.

What is diffuse gastric cancer?

Diffuse gastric cancer is a type of cancer found most often in the glandular cells lining the stomach, but can also develop in the bowel, breast, pancreas, bladder, prostate or lung. The term "signet ring cell" is often used because the cells look like signet rings when viewed under a microscope. The signet cells are a type of epithelial cell. Epithelial tissue is skin tissue, covering and lining the body both inside and out.[1] 
Last updated: 12/16/2011

Can diffuse gastric cancer be inherited?

Diffuse gastric cancer can be inherited or can happen sporadically in a family. Sporadic means that the cancer occurred randomly for the first time in a individual and was not inherited from a parent. Hereditary diffuse gastric cancer (HDGC) is caused by mutations in the CDH1 gene. Individuals with a CDH1 mutation typically develop cancer before age 40.[2]
Last updated: 12/16/2011

What is hereditary diffuse gastric cancer?

Hereditary diffuse gastric cancer is an inherited cancer syndrome that greatly increases the chance of developing cancer of the stomach lining. This syndrome is caused by mutations in the CDH1 gene. In hereditary diffuse gastric cancer, stomach cancer typically develops in a person's late thirties or early forties. Mutations in the CDH1 gene also increase a person's risk for lobular breast cancer. This condition is inherited in an autosomal dominant pattern.[2]
Last updated: 12/16/2011

How is hereditary diffuse gastric cancer inherited?

Hereditary diffuse gastric cancer is inherited in an autosomal dominant pattern, which means that one inherited copy of the altered gene in each cell is sufficient to increase cancer risk. It is important to note that people inherit an increased risk of cancer, not the disease itself. Not all people who inherit mutations in this gene will develop cancer.[2]
Last updated: 12/16/2011

Is genetic testing available for hereditary diffuse gastric cancer?

Genetic testing is available for the CDH1 gene. Mutations in CDH1 account for approximately one-third of hereditary diffuse gastric cancers.[2] GeneTests lists the names of laboratories that are performing genetic testing for this condition. To view the contact information for the clinical laboratories conducting testing, click here.

Please note:  Most of the laboratories listed through GeneTests do not accept direct contact from patients and their families; therefore, if you are interested in learning more, you will need to work with a health care provider or a genetics professional.  Below, we provide a list of online resources that can assist you in locating a genetics professional near you.
Last updated: 9/30/2011

Who should I speak to if I am concerned about my inherited risks for diffuse gastric cancer?

We recommend that you contact a genetics clinic to discuss your concern with a genetic professional. Genetics clinics are a source of information for individuals and families regarding genetic conditions, treatment, inheritance, and genetic risks to other family members. More information about genetic consultations is available from Genetics Home Reference at To find a genetics clinic, we recommend that you contact your primary healthcare provider for a referral.

The following online resources can help you find a genetics professional in your community:  
Last updated: 9/30/2011

Can diffuse gastric cancer be caused by excessive drinking?

Most of the time the exact cause of gastric cancer can not be determined; however there are many different factors that may put someone at an increased risk for developing stomach cancer. While it isn't clear if alcohol alone can increase this risk, it is thought that regular drinking may increase the risk in smokers.[3]

You can visit the following information pages develped by the National Cancer Insitute and Cancer Research UK to learn more about these risks.
Last updated: 12/16/2011