Heredity and Cancer Basics

Heredity is the transmission of genetic characteristics from ancestor to descendant through the genes. As a subject, it is tied closely to genetics, the area of biological study concerned with hereditary traits.

Heredity may play a role in some cancers. It’s common that many family members have had cancer and it may seem that certain cancers seem to run in some families. Genetics mean that some people are more vulnerable to inherit cancer than others, however, environmental factors such as smoking and diet often determine which of these people will develop the disease. Individuals who have a strong family history of cancer or multiple types of cancers that run in their families may want to find out about their genetic makeup.

All cancer is triggered by altered genes, but only five to ten percent of cancers are actually hereditary.

We offer comprehensive cancer risk assessment evaluation and cancer genetic testing at The Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins.