Juvenile Polyposis Syndrome (JPS)

What is juvenile polyposis syndrome?

Juvenile polyposis syndrome (JPS) is a hereditary condition identified by the presence of multiple polyps (abnormal growths or tumors) in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. In JPS, the polyps are called juvenile or inflammatory polyps. The term "juvenile" refers to the type of polyp, not the age of when the polyps occur. However, most children with JPS have some polyps by the age of 20.

Not every child with juvenile polyps has JPS. That’s why it’s critical for a GI specialist with experience in polyposis disorders to be involved in the evaluation.

The number of polyps will vary for each individual. Some people may have only four or five polyps, whereas others may have more than a hundred. Polyps in JPS can be found anywhere in the GI tract — from the stomach to the rectum — but they are mostly found in the large intestine.

JPS occurs in approximately 1 in 100,000 people and equally affects both males and females. Most juvenile polyps are non-cancerous. The risk of developing cancer is rare and generally occurs in adulthood.

Meet Lukas.

At age 7, he was diagnosed with juvenile polyposis syndrome. And after a series of tests, it was discovered his father and sister had the same condition.

Read more

Boy with juvenile polyposis syndrome dressed in a football uniform, flanked by a football team.

What causes JPS?

JPS is usually caused by a mutation in one of two genes — SMAD4 or BMPR1A gene — and rarely third gene, PTEN, is involved. The new mutation can happen in two ways:

  • It can be passed down from a parent (in 50 percent of children).
  • It can be a new mutation in the SMAD4 or BMPR1A gene.

If a child has JPS and the SMAD4 gene, they may also have an associated congenital vascular condition known as hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia.

Not all children will have an identified mutation.

What are the symptoms of JPS?

Children may begin to experience symptoms during early childhood. Abnormal signs and symptoms that may develop in the course of the disease include:

  • rectal bleeding
  • diarrhea
  • anemia
  • bowel obstruction
  • visible rectal polyp

Most polyps in JPS are non-cancerous (benign). However, polyps can change and become cancerous. Colon cancer is the most serious risk of JPS, with up to a 50 percent chance of developing colon cancer during their lifetime.

How we care for JPS

The Boston Children's Hospital Polyposis Program provides comprehensive care for children with JPS. Our team specializes in the treatment of pediatric polyposis conditions, bringing together GI endoscopy, Genetics, Surgery and other specialties when necessary. We also are fortunate to work closely with one of the top pediatric cancer centers in the country — Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center.