What is Inherited Cancer Risk?

Cancer can be caused by a combination of genetics, environment, and lifestyle. Some cancers are caused by genetic changes that are passed from generation to generation (inherited). Disease-associated genetic changes are called "mutations" or "pathogenic variants".

Most cancers are not hereditary and are due to genetic changes called "somatic mutations". These may be due to environmental exposures, "gene-to-gene" interactions, and our individual biology and occur throughout our lifetime.

A genetic mutation passed from either mother or father to a child is known as a "germline mutation" and can lead to inherited risk for cancer.

Lifetime risk for certain cancers in people with inherited mutations is often significantly increased over the general population. Specific cancer screening or risk-reducing recommendations may be considered for individuals with inherited genetic mutations.

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