Learn about gene changes called mutations, how inherited mutations can lead to cancer, what types of cancer may be hereditary and how parents can pass gene mutations to their children.

Signs of an inherited mutation linked to cancer risk 

If you or a relative have been diagnosed with cancer, it may due to an inherited mutation. Signs of an inherited mutation or hereditary cancer include the following:

You have a blood relative who has tested positive for an inherited gene mutation linked to cancer.


OR

You or any of your family members have had:

  • Pancreatic, ovarian, fallopian tube, primary peritoneal or male breast cancer at any age.
  • Breast, colorectal or endometrial cancer at age 50 or younger.
  • Two separate cancer diagnoses.
  • A type of breast cancer called “triple-negative breast cancer” at age 60 or younger.
  • Prostate cancer at age 55 or younger or metastatic prostate cancer.
  • Colorectal cancer at any age with tumor testing that shows microsatellite instability (MSI-High) or other tumor test results that are suggestive of Lynch syndrome.
  • Endometrial cancer at any age with tumor testing that shows microsatellite instability (MSI-High) or other tumor test results that are suggestive of Lynch syndrome.
  • More than 10 colon polyps.
  • Rare or young-onset cancers.
  • Tumor testing that shows a mutation in a gene associated with hereditary cancer.
  • Eastern European Jewish ancestry and breast, ovarian or pancreatic cancer at any age.


OR

More than one family member on the same side of your family has had a combination of the following cancers:

  • Breast cancer
  • Ovarian, fallopian tube or primary peritoneal cancer
  • Prostate cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Melanoma
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Endometrial cancer
  • Stomach cancer
  • Rare or young-onset cancers

 

This list is not comprehensive; other cancers may be hereditary too. If you would like to learn if the cancer in your family is hereditary, it is important to consult with a genetics expert.

key-facts
  • Both men and women can carry an inherited mutation linked to cancer. 
  • You don't need a large family history of cancer to have an inherited mutation linked to cancer. There are situations where a single case of cancer in a family is enough to prompt a referral to an expert known as a genetic counselor. Visit our section on Testing Guidelines for information on genetic testing listed by cancer type. 
Last updated June 30, 2020