Inherited Predisposition and Cancer

By looking at a person’s family history, it is often possible to assess whether or not a gene alteration is running within that particular family. To do this it is necessary to know what types of cancer have occurred within that family, and how old each person was when they developed cancer.

An individual may be at particular risk if, within their family, there are:

  • Two or more close blood relatives on the same side of the family with the same type of cancer
  • Cancers occurring at young ages, before the age at which they usually occur in the general population (generally this means under 50 years of age)
  • A person affected with more than one cancer (separate cancers, rather than one cancer that has spread to another site)

*It has been noted that in some families a pattern of different cancers can occur (such as breast, ovarian and prostate cancer; or bowel cancer and cancer of the womb/uterus). This is because certain gene alterations can predispose an individual to develop more than one type of cancer.

It is important to note that even if an individual has an inherited predisposition to cancer which does increase their chance of developing a certain cancer(s), it does not necessarily mean that they will ever develop that (those) cancer(s).

If, after reading the above information, you are concerned that a gene alteration may be running within your family, please see the what can I do? section of this site for advice.

Family History and Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer is one cancer which can occur as part of a pattern of different cancers within one family. For more information about the inherited gene alterations which are thought to increase an individual’s risk of developing prostate cancer, please see the inherited predisposition and prostate cancer section of this website.