An inherited disease characterized by gastrointestinal polyps and the appearance of small brown lesions on the gums, palate, lips, nose, hands, and feet. These lesions, which usually appear first when the patient is a child, do not cause physical discomfort. In time, the skin lesions may fade but the mouth lesions remain. Internally, polyps develop in the stomach, small and large intestines, and rectum, with the largest percentage of polyps developing in the small intestine. Polyps in the gastrointestinal tract can cause abdominal pain, vomiting, and bleeding.

This disease is related to the more serious colonic polyposis, a hereditary disease affecting mostly the large intestine and in which the polyps have a very high rate of cancerous change. Although Peutz-Jeghers syndrome also is inherited, the percentage of polyps that become cancerous is only 2 to 3 percent. It has also been noted that 5 percent of women with this disease also will develop ovarian cancer.

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