Genetic cancer risk

What is genetic cancer risk?

Genetic cancer risk refers to a risk of cancer caused by a genetic change or variant. We all have genes that help to protect us from developing cancer. In some families a genetic variant can be present in one of these genes. When a person is born with a genetic variant in a cancer-predisposing gene, they are at an increased risk of developing certain cancer types over their lifetime. 

About 5% of certain cancers are due to inherited gene variants. Identifying families where a genetic cancer risk is present can help to more accurately establish the cancer risks for relatives and allow other relatives to access genetic testing and/or advice about an appropriate cancer risk management plan to either reduce their cancer risk or optimize the ability to detect cancer early. 

What to do if you have a family history of cancer?

If you do have a family history of cancer it is important to discuss this with your local doctor. Before you do it can be helpful to gather information about your family history from your family members (if possible). Information to collect includes which family members have been diagnosed with cancer, what age and what type. Ensuring you have accurate information will help your doctor make the best assessment about your level of cancer risk and whether you need a specialist genetics assessment.

Whilst it is important to discuss these issues with your doctor, only a small percentage of families who have a history of cancer do so because of a genetic susceptibility to cancer, resulting in other family

Conversation and communication

Information and templates originally developed by the Family Ties Foundation to help you share genetic information with family members.

Conversations about Genetic Cancer Risk fact sheets:
Sharing information with family members
Sharing information with family of limited contact
Sharing information with young people
Sharing information with primary aged children

Communication example template: verbal and written

Information on this page was originally developed by Simone Busija, founder of the former Family Ties Foundation