Just like blue eyes and heart disease might run in your family, cancer can, too. However, only about 5- 10% of all cancers can be linked to family cancer syndromes. So, how do you tell if someone’s cancer is caused by genetics or not? Regional Cancer Care Associates (RCCA) shares some of the easiest ways to tell.
What Are Family Cancer Syndromes?
Family cancer syndrome is when inherited gene mutations are passed from one family member to the next—making them more likely to develop cancer at some point in their lifetime.
If a family does have family cancer syndrome, it doesn’t mean everyone is guaranteed to get cancer. The mutated gene may not get passed down to everyone. In addition, everyone gets one gene from their mother and one gene from their father. So, even if gene A is mutated, the cells can still function normally—unless something happens to gene B later on.
Signs of Family Cancer Syndrome
Cancer is extremely common. For that reason, we can’t rely on prevalence alone to determine if there’s a genetic link among family members. Instead, look for these telltale signs:
- Many family members all have the same type of cancer.
- Someone has a rare type of cancer.
- People are diagnosed with cancer below the average age. For example, the average age for colon cancer in men is 68. A 20-year-old cousin getting diagnosed with it is cause for concern.
- A single person is diagnosed with more than one type, such as breast and ovarian cancer.
- The cancer occurs in both places of a pair. For example, there is cancer on not one kidney or in one breast, but in both.
- More than one sibling is diagnosed with a childhood cancer.
- It occurs in a sex that’s not usually affected, such as a man having breast cancer.
- There have been cases of cancer across multiple generations.
Ask About Genetic Testing at RCCA
If you’re concerned about a family history of cancer, talk to your doctor about it. They can help you decide if you’re a good candidate for genetic testing. Schedule an appointment at your local RCCA office today to learn more.