Health Information

About Cancer and Genetics

  • Description of Genetics

    Cancers develop because of alterations, or mutations, in genes that normally promote controlled cell growth. Most cancers are caused by mutations that occur only in the tissue that is affected by the cancer.

  • Description of Genes

    Each cell in your body contains about 25,000 genes, which determine your hair color, your height, and other characteristics that make you unique.

  • Autosomal Dominant Inheritance

    A mutation is a change in a gene that prevents it from working properly. We inherit mutations from our parents in specific ways, one of which is called autosomal dominant inheritance.

  • Autosomal Recessive Inheritance

    Autosomal inheritance of a gene means that the gene is located on one of the 22 pairs of chromosomes that are not the sex chromosomes. This means that boys and girls (or men and women) are equally likely to have the gene.

  • X-linked Inheritance

    X-linked inheritance means that the gene alteration causing the trait or the disorder is located on the X chromosome. Females have two X chromosomes, and males have one X and one Y. Mutations in X chromosome genes can be recessive or dominant.

  • Multifactorial Inheritance

    Multifactorial inheritance means that many factors are involved in causing a health problem. The factors are usually both genetic and environmental, where a combination of genes from both parents, in addition to unknown environmental factors, produce the trait or condition.

  • Features of Inherited Cancers

    A family medical history helps determine whether relatives have an increased chance of developing specific types of cancer, how great the risk of cancer might be, and whether genetic testing might be useful.

  • Genetic Services for Cancer Diagnosis: When, Where, How

    If you have a family history of multiple cases of the same or related types of cancer, you may need genetic counseling. Generally, you can find genetic counseling and other genetic services at large hospitals or medical centers.

  • How Genes Cause Cancer

    Genes that have alterations, or mutations, can cause cells to become cancerous. Some mutations are inherited and others are "acquired," happening by chance over time.