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Understanding Genetic Risk for Cancer


"People who are survivors might want to know, 'Why did this cancer happen to me?' They may also want to know if they have risk for developing another cancer."
— Judy Garber, MD, MPH 

Genetics and Cancer Survivorship

About 5 percent of all cancers are inherited. In these cases a person inherits a gene in which the risk of getting cancer is 50 percent or more.

Genetic tests can check whether families with a history of certain types of cancers carry a mutation that predisposes them to the disease. Such tests may help survivors and their family members take special steps to detect cancer early or prevent it altogether.

What You Can Do

 
  • Get regular heath screenings. Routine health screenings such as a mammogram or colonoscopy can help detect cancer in its early stages, when it is most treatable.
  • Consider genetic testing. Genetic information may help an you and your physician take special steps to detect cancer early or prevent it altogether. Some people are tested to help relieve uncertainties about cancer risk. Visit our Cancer Risk and Prevention page to learn more about specific types of cancer risks that might be detected through genetic testing.
  • Maintain a healthy weight and exercise. Studies have shown that exercising as little as 30 minutes a day can decrease your risk for certain types of cancer. Remember to talk to your doctor before beginning an exercise program.
  • If you smoke, now is the time to quit. Smoking dramatically increases your risk for many types of cancer, and quitting smoking can help decrease risk of a cancer recurrence.

 
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  • Center for Cancer Genetics and Prevention

  • Ask the Cancer Genetics Team

    • Do you have questions about genetic testing or are you wondering if you or someone in your family is at greater risk of developing cancer? Our cancer genetics team can help answer your questions.