Gastrointestinal Cancer Genetics and Prevention Program

Cancer can occur for a variety of reasons, but some people have a higher risk because they have inherited a genetic susceptibility to it. In such families, a faulty gene associated with cancer is passed down from one generation to the next.

Understanding Your Risk

Gastrointestinal tumors include cancers of the colon, stomach, pancreas, and esophagus. There may be an inherited tendency to develop these diseases if:

  • You have a parent, brother, sister, or child who has been diagnosed with a gastrointestinal cancer or uterine cancer.
  • You or any family member has had a gastrointestinal cancer or uterine cancer before the age of 50.
  • You or a relative have had more than one cancer (including colorectal cancer).
  • You or a relative have had pre-cancerous conditions such as polyps in the colon or stomach.
  • You have a known history of a hereditary colon cancer syndrome. We specialize in the following syndromes:
    • Lynch Syndrome (formerly known as hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer)
    • Polyposis syndromes: Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP), Juvenile polyposis, Gardner syndrome
    • Peutz-Jeghers Syndrome
    • MYH-associated polyposis (MAP)
    • Hereditary pancreatic cancer

Our Services

If you think that you have a high risk of developing a gastrointestinal cancer, the Dana-Farber Cancer Genetics and Prevention Program can help you create a personalized program to lower your risk.

It begins with a cancer risk evaluation, where you will meet with a genetic counselor and a doctor who specializes in cancers that can be inherited. They will talk with you about your family's history of cancer and what this means. Surgeons, oncologists, radiologists, and social workers are also available to talk with you and your family.

What You Can Do

One goal of this evaluation is to help you learn what steps you can take to lower your risk of developing a gastrointestinal cancer.

If you are at risk for developing a gastrointestinal cancer, there are several ways for you to take control, including:

Cancer Screening

Any plan for lowering cancer risk must include cancer screening, which can help find cancer early or even prevent it entirely. The staff at the Center for Cancer Genetics and Prevention can help you determine which types of cancer screenings are best for you, and how often you should have them.

Genetic Testing

Genetic testing is available and can be an important part of finding gene changes that could dramatically increase a person's risk of cancer. Knowing whether or not you carry a problem gene may influence how and when you and your family should have cancer screenings.

Clinical Research

The Center for Cancer Genetics and Prevention offers the opportunity to take part in clinical trials. These are studies that examine the best ways to prevent inherited gastrointestinal cancers and how to find these cancers early on, when treatment is most effective.


This clinical prediction algorithm was designed for healthcare professionals to estimate the cumulative and individual probabilities that an individual is an MLH1, MSH2, or MSH6 mutation carrier.

Research Studies

Learn about the gastrointestinal cancer studies currently underway at the Center for Cancer Genetics and Prevention at Dana-Farber.