Most cancer is not hereditary. The majority, 90% of cancer is not inherited and is instead caused by a combination of factors, including aging, obesity and environmental factors.
So who should be concerned about hereditary cancer?
If one or more of the following factors are found in your family, you should consider seeing a certified genetic counselor to learn more about your risks and options:
- Early onset of cancer (prior to age 45 in breast cancer and prior to age 50 for colon cancer)
- Multiple primary or new cancers in one person (breast/ovary/pancreas or uterine/ovary colon)
- The same cancer seen multiple times on one side of the family
- Unusual presence of cancer (such as male breast cancer)
- Clustering of rare cancers
- Related cancers present in one family (breast/ovarian/pancreatic or colon/uterine/ ovarian)
- Jewish ancestry (an increased risk for hereditary ovarian and breast cancer)
If genetic testing reveals that there is a genetic mutation associated with cancer in a family, other family members can be offered testing. Family members who carry the familial mutation can start surveillance at an earlier age and may be offered more surveillance and risk reduction options. These options can be life-saving.
Photo by jeff_golden, via Flickr