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Cancer Genetics

Risk of Cancer

10/24/2008

Question:

On my mothers side of the family almost all of them have lung, brain, colon or stomach cancer. I my self have had a polyp removed already. I was wondering what the chances are of me getting cancer? Is it higher than normal?

Answer:

We have learned from a number of studies that individuals with a family history of cancer have an increased risk for similar cancers. Sometimes the risk is rather modest (about twice the population risk for that kind of cancer) and sometimes the risk is substantial, especially in families in which the cancers are the result of inherited cancer susceptibility. Without a formal evaluation it is difficult to determine your risk for these cancers. However, some of the cancers in your family are also found in hereditary cancer families. I would suggest that you discuss your family history with your primary care physician, and he or she can then determine whether a more extensive evaluation by a genetic counselor or medical geneticist is in order. The genetics professionals will be able to help you determine whether any kind of testing might be appropriate for you or other members of your family, and what kind of cancer screening schedule will be most appropriate for you. If you would like additional information about the cancers in your family, you can go the National Cancer Institute website. If you would like more information about how to locate a genetic counselor, you can go to the website for the National Society of Genetic Counselors.

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Response by:

Duane D Culler, PhD, MS Duane D Culler, PhD, MS
Clinical Instructor of Genetics
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University