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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, ovarian, and related cancers (HBOC)

"Hereditary cancers” are those caused by an inherited gene mutation that increases the risk for one or more types of cancer. "Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer Syndrome" (also known as HBOC) is most commonly caused by mutations in one of two genes: BRCA1 and BRCA2. These mutations increase the risk for breast, ovarian, pancreatic, prostate, melanoma and possibly other cancers. Mutations in other genes are also associated with hereditary breast and/or ovarian cancers including PALB2, CHEK2, ATM, BRIP1, and RAD51C, and RAD51D. People with the following personal or family history should discuss the possibility of genetic testing with a genetic counselor: 

If you or a relative have had any of the following:

  • ovarian, fallopian tube, or primary peritoneal cancer
  • breast cancer at age 50 or younger
  • two separate breast cancers
  • a type of breast cancer called “triple negative breast cancer”
  • male breast cancer
  • pancreatic cancer
  • prostate cancer at age 55 or younger or metastatic prostate cancer (cancer that spread outside the prostate)
  • Eastern European Jewish ancestry and any of the above cancers at any age

Or, if more than one family member on the same side of your family has had:

  • breast cancer
  • ovarian, fallopian tube, primary peritoneal cancer
  • prostate cancer
  • pancreatic cancer  

Several other types of 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 colon, uterine, and ovarian.

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

Updated 07/28/2017

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