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Which cancers are hereditary?

Scientists have discovered inherited gene mutations for certain types of cancer, including:

  • adrenal gland cancer
  • bone cancer
  • brain and spinal cord cancers
  • breast cancer
  • colorectal cancer
  • eye cancer (melanoma of the eye in adults and retinoblastoma in children)
  • fallopian tube cancer
  • kidney cancer, including Wilms tumour in children
  • some types of leukemia and lymphoma
  • hepatoblastoma (a rare type of liver cancer that affects children)
  • neuroblastoma
  • neuroendocrine tumours
  • oropharyngeal cancer
  • ovarian cancer
  • pancreatic cancer
  • parathyroid gland cancer
  • pituitary gland cancer
  • prostate cancer
  • rhabdomyosarcoma
  • skin cancers
  • small intestine cancer
  • soft tissue sarcoma
  • stomach cancer
  • testicular cancer
  • thyroid cancer
  • uterine cancer

Some gene mutations increase the risk of developing more than one type of cancer. For example, a gene mutation that increases a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer may also increase her risk of ovarian cancer.

Inherited gene mutations are often linked to a family cancer syndrome. Most are rare. Not everyone with a family cancer syndrome develops cancer.

Research is continuing to tell us more about specific genes that may put people at higher risk of developing these and other types of cancer.

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