Because cancers such as Breast, Colon, and Prostate are so common, many individuals have a family history of these cancers. However, only 5—10% of cancers have a strong hereditary component.
According to the National Cancer Institute, over 1 million individuals in the United States will have been diagnosed with cancer in 2009. This figure does not include non-melanoma skin cancers, which is on the rise. The most common cancers are those of the lung, prostate, breast, and colon/rectum. With the exception of lung cancer, which is strongly linked to smoking history, these other tumor types frequently run in families.
Because these cancers are so common, it is not surprising that in some families, more than one person may be diagnosed with the same or a different type of cancer. Through the process of genetic counseling, a comprehensive medical and family history is compiled and reviewed to determine if there may be an inherited link among familial cancers. If so, genetic testing may help clarify cancer risks, which may help individuals make decisions about medical management, including cancer screening and measures for cancer risk reduction.
Click on "Disease Specific Information" to see educational material about genetic risk assessment for various cancers.