The majority of melanomas are a combination of environmental and sporadic factors. However, approximately 10% of all melanomas are inherited.
Could the melanoma in my family be hereditary?
These factors increase the likelihood that melanoma is hereditary:
- Some family members have had two or more primary (distinct) melanomas
- There are two or more family members on the same side of the family who have had melanoma
- There is a combination of melanoma and pancreatic cancer on the same side of your family
- You are of Jewish ancestry, and there is a combination of melanoma, breast, ovarian, and/or pancreatic cancer on the same side of your family
Why would I want to know if there is a genetic mutation in my family?
Not everyone wants to know if they carry a genetic mutation that places them at increased risk to develop melanoma. For those who do, this information could provide information about their risks to develop additional melanomas and related cancers and could be used to shape a personalized surveillance and cancer risk reduction program for themselves and other family members.
What does genetic testing entail?
Genetic testing involves taking a small blood or saliva sample. The DNA in that sample is sent off to look for mutations within several genes that are involved in melanoma development. It is wise to meet with a certified genetic counselor before and after genetic testing. A genetic counselor will discuss the pros and cons of genetic testing to better enable you to make a clear and informed decision, as well as increase the chance that:
- Your insurance will cover testing
- The correct test is ordered
- Your results are interpreted accurately
- You are given tailored medical management options based on your personal and/or family history and your genetic results