Are Cancers hereditary?

Medically Reviewed by Checkmark Medically Reviewed By: Sravanthi Sunkaraneni

Yes, some cancers are hereditary. Cancer is the uncontrolled multiplication of cells that occurs due to damaged (mutated) genetic material. This damage can occur due to exposure to toxins that is a result of lifestyle choices or the environment or occupation. However, sometimes a damaged gene may pass from parent to child through sperm or egg. In this case, cancer is hereditary.

Although some cancers are hereditary, the American Cancer Society (ACS) website shows that the number of such cases is relatively small and are only about 5 to 10 per cent of all cancer cases. As per the National Health Service (NHS) website, most cancers arise from a combination of risk factors that includes family history.

Some common inherited cancers can affect the breast, colon, prostate, ovarian, uterine, melanin, pancreas, etc. Cancer that is inherited is also called germline cancer.

In this case, the damaged gene is present during conception itself and as the embryo develops, this gene multiplies with the cells resulting in the damaged gene being present in all the cells of the body. Since the mutated gene is also present within the reproductive cells, the cancer may pass from generation to generation.

In conclusion, cancer can be inherited in those who have a family history. This means that a person’s risk of developing some types of cancer is greater if they have a relative with cancer.

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Disclaimer
Medical Science is an ever evolving field. We strive to keep this page updated. In case you notice any discrepancy in the content, please inform us at [email protected]. You can further read our Correction Policy here. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment because of something you have read on or accessed through this website or it's social media channels. Read our Full Disclaimer Here for further information.

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