Inherited genetic mutations play a major role in about 5 to 10 percent of all cancers, per the National Cancer Institute. In addition, researchers have associated mutations in specific genes with more than 50 hereditary cancer syndromes, which are disorders that may predispose individuals to developing certain cancers.
Screening for Genetically-Linked Cancers
Genetic tests for hereditary cancer syndromes can tell whether a person from a family that shows signs of such a syndrome has one of these mutations. These tests can also show whether family members without obvious disease have inherited the same mutation as a family member who carries a cancer-associated mutation.
Many experts recommend that genetic testing for cancer risk be considered when someone has a personal or family history that suggests an inherited cancer risk condition, as long as the test results can be adequately interpreted (that is, they can clearly tell whether a specific genetic change is present or absent) and when the results provide information that will help guide a person’s future medical care.
Even if a cancer-predisposing mutation is present in a family, not everyone who inherits the mutation will necessarily develop cancer.
Resources for Genetically-Linked Cancers
- Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey’s Genetics/Genetic Counseling Resource Center
- The LIFE Center: Genetic Counseling and Risk Assessment
- National Cancer Institute’s Genetics of Cancer Resource
*Screening information courtesy of the National Cancer Institute