About Cancer

Is Cancer Hereditary?

Is Cancer Hereditary? What Is A Family Cancer Syndrome? Get expert advice on Family cancer syndrome, also known as hereditary cancer syndrome.

Cancer occurs when there is an uncontrolled growth of cells which also has the potential to spread to other organs. It can occur in any part of the body when genes that govern our cell’s behaviour are altered and get misregulated. In a special series on World Cancer Day 2023, we talked to Dr Vineeta Goel, Cancer Specialist, Fortis Hospital, Shalimar Bagh, Delhi, who explained us about cancer and if it is hereditary. For the past 25 years, she has treated cancer patients and assisted them in leading healthy lives.

Is Cancer Hereditary?

If you have ever wondered if cancer is hereditary, the answer is mostly a “big no”. Although genetic alterations cause cancer, they are not always inherited. It is believed that only 5% to 10% of cancers are hereditary when someone inherits a genetic mutation. Some of the cancers that can be hereditary are breast cancer, prostate cancer, colon cancer, ovarian cancer and uterine cancer.

What Is A Family Cancer Syndrome?

Family cancer syndrome, also known as hereditary cancer syndrome, is a type of inherited disorder where the risk of developing specific cancers is higher than average. Mutations in specific genes handed down from parents to offspring are the root cause of hereditary cancer disorders. However, it must be noted that not every cancer that appears to be inherited is caused by family cancer syndrome. In some cases, family members may develop the same type of cancer because of the same environment or habits, such as tobacco use or exposure to air pollution. There is also the possibility of cancer running in the family if members of the family possess a variety of genetic variations that are each associated with a very small cancer risk.

Testing For Inherited Cancers

You may wonder if you need genetic testing to detect if you have inherited a genetic change. However, not everyone needs genetic testing if they have someone in their family who has or has had cancer. You should consult with a genetic counsellor to decide if you need to get tested for genetic testing. The doctor will ask you about your family history and medical records to determine if you need to get tested. The doctor will make you aware of the benefits, risks, and side effects of genetic testing. You should refrain from ordering the at-home genetic test, as it may have several drawbacks.

Signs That May Indicate Hereditary Cancer

  • Diagnosis of cancer at an early age
  • Many first or second-degree relatives with cancer.
  • If any member in your family has breast, uterine or ovarian cancer.
  • If any of your family members has rare cancers like sarcoma, pheochromocytoma, medullary thyroid cancer, or a male member has breast cancer.
  • Family member with multiple types of cancer

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