Do you have a history of cancer in your family? Seemingly unlinked cancers can jump from male to female (IE a family history of breast cancer can cause prostate cancer), so you’ve likely wondered at least once what your odds of being diagnosed with cancer are. What about your children’s risk? Genetics (DNA) plays a vital role in a person’s likelihood of developing cancer. What you may not know is that genetics matter more for certain types of cancers.According to Cancer.gov, inherited genetic mutations play a significant role in about five to 10 percent of all cancers. Researchers have also associated mutations in specific genes with more than 50 hereditary cancer syndromes, which makes one predisposed to developing certain cancers. Cancer is, in fact, a genetic disease because it is caused by specific changes to genes that control the way our cells function, especially how they grow and divide.We can inherit genetic changes that promote cancer from our parents if the changes are present in germ cells, which are the body’s reproductive cells (eggs and sperm). Such changes, called germline changes, are found in every cell of the offspring.
Cancers with the most significant genetic risk
- Colorectal Cancer (Up to 99% hereditary risk)
- Breast Cancer (Up to 87% risk)
- Prostate (Up to 83% risk)
- Endometrial (Up to 71% risk)
- Ovarian (Up to 63% risk)
Hereditary types of cancerScientists link several cancers to genetic (DNA) mutations passed from family member to family member, including prostate cancer, melanoma, ovarian cancer, breast cancer, gastric cancer, pancreatic cancer, endometrial cancer, and colorectal cancer. Learn more about the specific hereditary risks of each of these cancers.
When should you screen to measure your risk of developing hereditary cancer?
- Family history: If multiple family members have developed the same cancer or similar cancers, this could be a sign of increased risk because of genetics.
- Multiple cancers: If a relative has two different forms of cancer, it could show mutated genes linked to hereditary cancer
- Cancer at an early age: When two or more relatives have experienced cancer before 50 years old, it could sign a shared genetic predisposition to different types of cancer.
- Rare cancers: Some cancers like ovarian cancer, endometrial cancer, or male breast cancer are rare and are linked to inherited genetic mutations.