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Huntsman Cancer Foundation
500 Huntsman Way,
Salt Lake City, UT 84108

801-584-5800 or
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Huntsman Cancer Institute Hospital
1950 Circle of Hope, Room 1110
Salt Lake City, UT 84112
801-587-4050 (Office)
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March 17, 2020

My Irish heritage gives me my eye and hair color, along with a lot of freckles. I also think my heritage has blessed me in many ways. A couple of years ago, I wanted to learn more about my far-flung and large Irish family. So I sent a sample of my DNA along to a commercial gene sequencing company and learned that my heritage predisposed me to certain disease risks as well. I already knew that my grandfather fled the grinding poverty of Ireland in the early twentieth century, and immigrated to the United States. My DNA test confirmed this fact. According to family lore (mostly provided by my grandfather who could always spin a good story), my grandfather made a good life for himself. He drove a trolley car, married, and he and my grandmother had six children. The trolley car career progressed to a good job driving a city bus. Money was tight but life was happy and hunger was banished in my father’s generation. My grandfather passed away at 96 due to age, having never really had any sickness in his lifetime.

All but one of my grandfather’s children, including my father, smoked cigarettes. In fact, my father was a heavy-smoking, dedicated Marlboro Man. On the mean streets where first-generation immigrant families lived (the slums), smoking was something young kids picked up. They got addicted. My father had his first cigarette when he was 10-years-old. He smoked for 60 years. At the age of 70, he finally was able to quit. He passed away from advanced colon cancer when he was 72 – just weeks after being diagnosed. My aunt Mary died in her 50s of a stroke (she smoked). My Aunt Kay died from lung cancer. She was also in her 50s and smoked. Family history can be instructive. Among my large number of cousins, we were keen observers and we have few smokers among us. Three of my grandfather’s six children had their lives shortened due to behaviors that increased their risk of disease.

Family history can be instructive in other ways too. We can use the family tree to track down less obvious killers. Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) does this better than any other place in the world for families with inherited risk for cancers such as breast, colon, skin, and head and neck cancers. In fact, HCI has discovered more predisposition gene mutations responsible for inherited forms of cancer than anywhere else in the world. This knowledge has done a world of good. This knowledge can help prevent some cancers altogether. So if you have a family history with a pattern of cancer from generation to generation, and you know there seems to be no behavioral explanation such a s smoking, poor diet, obesity, sun exposure, or artificial tanning methods, our genetic counseling services might be helpful to you. Learn more about what you can do to prevent cancer caused by inherited disease risk.

This important work has been made possible thanks to the Utah Population Database. To learn more about this unparalleled resource, go to


Susan Sheehan
President and COO
Huntsman Cancer Foundation



In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, Huntsman Cancer Foundation has implemented guidance from the State of Utah, its Department of Health, the University of Utah, and the Centers for Disease Control. During this time, we will observe limited in-person office hours and be continuing to operate remotely. To learn more go to

All business operations continue in order to advance the lifesaving work of Huntsman Cancer Institute. In this uncertain time, we are grateful for your continued robust support. More than ever, your support is needed. To make a donation, please visit: If you need to visit with foundation staff in person, please contact us at 801-584-5800. We will make sure we are available to assist you.

As Jon Huntsman so often said, “Cancer moves fast. And we need to move faster.”

Thank you for your understanding.