Cancer is such a common disease that it is no surprise that many families have at least a few members who have had cancer. Sometimes, certain types of cancer seem to run in some families. But only a small portion of all cancers are inherited. This document focuses on those cancers.
Genetics and Cancer
Some types of cancer run in certain families, but most cancers are not clearly linked to the genes we inherit from our parents. Gene changes that start in a single cell over the course of a person's life cause most cancers. In this section you can learn more about the complex links between genes and cancer.
Advances in genetics and molecular biology have improved our knowledge of the inner workings of cells, the basic building blocks of the body. Here we review how cells can change during a person’s life to become cancer, how certain types of changes can build on inherited gene changes to speed up the development of cancer, and how this information can help us better prevent and treat cancer.
Genetic testing can be useful for people with certain types of cancer that seem to run in their families, but these tests aren't recommended for everyone. Here we offer basic information to help you understand what genetic testing is and how it is used in cancer.