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Hereditary Cancer & Genetics

Learn about genes and cancer, signs of hereditary cancer, genetic counseling, types of genetic tests and what results mean for you and your family.

Signs of hereditary breast and ovarian cancer (HBOC)


"Hereditary cancer syndrome” describes an inherited gene mutation that increases the risk for one or more types of cancer. In many cases, hereditary breast and ovarian cancer (HBOC) syndromes are caused by mutations in one of two genes: BRCA1 or BRCA2, which substantially increase the risk for breast and ovarian, and slightly increase the risk for other cancers. Mutations in other genes are also associated with hereditary breast and/or ovarian cancer including PALB2, CHEK2, ATM, BRIP1, and RAD51C, and RAD51D. Signs of an hereditary breast-ovarian cancer syndrome in a family include, but are not limited to any family member with:

  • Ovarian or fallopian tube cancer at any age
  • Breast cancer at age 50 or younger
  • Breast cancer in both breasts at any age
  • Both breast and ovarian cancer
  • Male breast cancer
  • "Triple-negative" breast cancer
  • Ashkenazi Jewish heritage and breast cancer before age 60

More than one relative on the same side of the family with any of these cancers:

  • Breast cancer
  • Ovarian or fallopian tube cancer
  • Prostate cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Melanoma

Several different cancer syndromes have been identified, each with a particular set of signs. Some of these syndromes increase risk of breast cancer including Cowden syndrome (PTEN mutation), Li Fraumeni syndrome (TP53 mutation), CDH1 mutations, and STK11 mutations.  Lynch syndrome is a hereditary cancer syndrome that increases risks of many cancers, including ovarian cancer.

 If the cancer in your family may be hereditary, it is important to consult with a genetics expert. You can find a cancer genetics specialist on our finding health care section.

Updated 8/31/16


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