Why does cancer seem to run in some families?
In some families, many members have developed cancer. In other families, one or two members have developed multiple cancers or several precancerous conditions (such as colon polyps). What makes these families different from others? For some, there may be a hereditary reason for the cancer in the family—a risk factor for cancer may be passed down through the generations. Heredity rarely causes cancer. Only 5% to 10% of all cancers are caused by hereditary factors.
How do I know if my family has an increased risk for cancer?
Families that have increased risks for cancer often have certain similarities. Risk factors may include the following:
- Cancer occurring at an earlier age than in the general population (for example, breast or colon cancer before age 50)
- Multiple close family members with either the same type of cancer or related cancers (for example, breast and ovarian cancer; colon and uterine cancer)
- More than one type of cancer in the same person (for example, melanoma and pancreatic cancer)
- A close family member with multiple primary cancers of one type, such as bilateral breast cancer (breast cancer occurring in both breasts) or a single family member with two separate melanomas
- Rare cancers in the family
- Multiple generations with cancer
- One or more family members with multiple precancerous conditions (for example, 10 or more colon polyps over a lifetime)
Families with these features may consider having a genetic evaluation to learn more about their cancer risk. If you would like to know whether genetic evaluation is appropriate for you and whether your insurance covers the cost, Huntsman Cancer Institute's Family Cancer Assessment Clinic can help. Contact our clinic.
What is the Family Cancer Assessment Clinic?
The Family Cancer Assessment Clinic (FCAC) at Huntsman Cancer Institute identifies and helps families who have an increased risk for cancer.
What Can the FCAC Do For Me?
An FCAC appointment can help both cancer patients and their families. Genetic testing may be available to determine whether hereditary cancer risk is present in the family and to identify which family members are at an increased risk for cancer. Even when a hereditary risk for the cancer cannot be identified, the FCAC can provide special cancer screening recommendations based on family history.
Family Cancer Assessment Clinic 801-587-9555