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What is Inherited Cancer Risk?

Inherited Cancer Risk

  • Most cancers are sporadic (or happen by chance) and occur in patients without family history
  • Approximately 5-10 percent of all cancers are inherited or hereditary
  • Hereditary cancers are caused by a change (mutation) in certain genes
  • Inherited cancer risk can affect both men and women of all ages
  • These gene changes:
    - may be passed down from mothers or fathers to sons and daughters
    - may increase a person’s risk for developing one or more types of cancer (however, all people who inherit the changed gene may not develop cancer) 

What Features May Make Inherited Cancer Risk More Likely in My Family?

  • Cancer diagnosed at a young age (generally younger than age 50)
  • A person with more than one type of cancer (e.g., both colon and uterine cancer or both breast and ovarian cancer)
  • The presence of a very rare cancer (e.g. male breast cancer)
  • Cancer diagnosed in multiple family members across generations
  • Certain ethnic backgrounds (for example Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry)
  • Certain tumor study results