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Cowden syndrome(CS)

MedGen UID:
Concept ID:
Neoplastic Process
Synonyms: Cowden; Cowden disease; Cowden's disease; Cowden's syndrome; CS
SNOMED CT: Cowden's syndrome (58037000); Cowden syndrome (58037000); Multiple hamartoma syndrome (58037000)
Modes of inheritance:
Autosomal dominant inheritance
MedGen UID:
Concept ID:
Intellectual Product
Source: Orphanet
A mode of inheritance that is observed for traits related to a gene encoded on one of the autosomes (i.e., the human chromosomes 1-22) in which a trait manifests in heterozygotes. In the context of medical genetics, an autosomal dominant disorder is caused when a single copy of the mutant allele is present. Males and females are affected equally, and can both transmit the disorder with a risk of 50% for each child of inheriting the mutant allele.
Monarch Initiative: MONDO:0016063
OMIM®: 158350; 601728
OMIM® Phenotypic series: PS158350
Orphanet: ORPHA201


Cowden syndrome-1 is a hamartomatous disorder characterized by macrocephaly, facial trichilemmomas, acral keratoses, papillomatous papules, and an increased risk for the development of breast, thyroid, and endometrial carcinoma. Bannayan-Riley-Ruvalcaba syndrome (BRRS), previously thought be distinct, shared clinical characteristics with Cowden syndrome, such as hamartomatous polyps of the gastrointestinal tract, mucocutaneous lesions, and increased risk of developing neoplasms, but had the additional features of developmental delay, macrocephaly, lipomas, hemangiomas, and pigmented speckled macules of the glans penis in males. Because features of BRRS and Cowden syndrome have been found in individuals within the same family with the same PTEN mutation, Cowden syndrome-1 and BRRS are considered to be the same disorder with variable expression and age-related penetrance (summary by Marsh et al., 1999, Lachlan et al., 2007, and Blumenthal and Dennis, 2008). Approximately 80% of patients reported with Cowden syndrome and 60% with BRSS have PTEN mutations (Blumenthal and Dennis, 2008). Some patients with Cowden syndrome may have immune system defects resulting in increased susceptibility to infections (summary by Browning et al., 2015). [from OMIM]

Additional description

From MedlinePlus Genetics
Cowden syndrome is a genetic disorder characterized by multiple noncancerous, tumor-like growths called hamartomas and an increased risk of developing certain cancers.

Almost everyone with Cowden syndrome develops hamartomas. These growths are most commonly found on the skin and mucous membranes (such as the lining of the mouth and nose), but they can also occur in the intestine and other parts of the body. The growth of hamartomas on the skin and mucous membranes typically becomes apparent by a person's late twenties.

Cowden syndrome is associated with an increased risk of developing several types of cancer, particularly cancers of the breast, a gland in the lower neck called the thyroid, and the lining of the uterus (the endometrium). Other cancers that have been identified in people with Cowden syndrome include kidney cancer, colorectal cancer, and an agressive form of skin cancer called melanoma. Compared with the general population, people with Cowden syndrome develop these cancers at younger ages, often beginning in their thirties or forties. People with Cowden syndrome are also more likely to develop more than one cancer during their lifetimes compared to the general population. Other diseases of the breast, thyroid, and endometrium are also common in Cowden syndrome. Additional signs and symptoms can include an enlarged head (macrocephaly) and a rare, noncancerous brain tumor called Lhermitte-Duclos disease. A small percentage of affected individuals have delayed development, intellectual disability, or autism spectrum disorder, which can affect communication and social interaction.

Some people do not meet the strict criteria for a clinical diagnosis of Cowden syndrome, but they have some of the characteristic features of the condition, particularly the cancers. These individuals are often described as having Cowden-like syndrome. Both Cowden syndrome and Cowden-like syndrome are caused by mutations in the same genes.

The features of Cowden syndrome overlap with those of another disorder called Bannayan-Riley-Ruvalcaba syndrome. People with Bannayan-Riley-Ruvalcaba syndrome also develop hamartomas and other noncancerous tumors.  Some people with Cowden syndrome have relatives diagnosed with Bannayan-Riley-Ruvalcaba syndrome, and other affected individuals have the characteristic features of both conditions. Based on these similarities, researchers have proposed that Cowden syndrome and Bannayan-Riley-Ruvalcaba syndrome represent a spectrum of overlapping features known as PTEN hamartoma tumor syndrome (named for the genetic cause of the conditions) instead of two distinct conditions.  https://medlineplus.gov/genetics/condition/cowden-syndrome

Term Hierarchy

CClinical test,  RResearch test,  OOMIM,  GGeneReviews,  VClinVar  
  • CROGVCowden syndrome
Follow this link to review classifications for Cowden syndrome in Orphanet.

Professional guidelines


Rebuzzi F, Ulivi P, Tedaldi G
Int J Mol Sci 2023 Jan 21;24(3) doi: 10.3390/ijms24032137. PMID: 36768460Free PMC Article
Leachman SA, Lucero OM, Sampson JE, Cassidy P, Bruno W, Queirolo P, Ghiorzo P
Cancer Metastasis Rev 2017 Mar;36(1):77-90. doi: 10.1007/s10555-017-9661-5. PMID: 28283772Free PMC Article
Syngal S, Brand RE, Church JM, Giardiello FM, Hampel HL, Burt RW; American College of Gastroenterology
Am J Gastroenterol 2015 Feb;110(2):223-62; quiz 263. Epub 2015 Feb 3 doi: 10.1038/ajg.2014.435. PMID: 25645574Free PMC Article

Suggested Reading

Recent systematic reviews

Stanich PP, Pilarski R, Rock J, Frankel WL, El-Dika S, Meyer MM
World J Gastroenterol 2014 Feb 21;20(7):1833-8. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v20.i7.1833. PMID: 24587660Free PMC Article
Pilarski R, Burt R, Kohlman W, Pho L, Shannon KM, Swisher E
J Natl Cancer Inst 2013 Nov 6;105(21):1607-16. Epub 2013 Oct 17 doi: 10.1093/jnci/djt277. PMID: 24136893

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