Hereditary Cancer

Hereditary cancer syndromes are caused by mutations (changes) in genes that are passed from parent to child. These mutations cause a higher-than-average chance to develop cancer.1

Hereditary cancer syndromes may cause specific patterns of cancer within a family, such as multiple family members with the same type of cancer or cancer at younger ages. Some cancers known to be associated with these genes are breast, ovarian, prostate, pancreatic, endometrial, and colorectal. Overall, 5-10% of all cancers are thought to be related to a hereditary cancer syndrome.1

What Cancers may be Hereditary?

  • Hereditary prostate cancer: Men who have a father or a brother who has had prostate cancer have twice the risk of developing prostate cancer than a man without a family history of the disease. Inherited mutations, or changes of a gene, cause about 5% to 10% of prostate cancers.2
  • Hereditary renal cancer: Renal (kidney) cancer is among the top 10 most prevalent cancers in both men and women. Statistics show that men are twice as likely to develop kidney cancer versus women.4 Approximately 3-5% of renal cancer cases are hereditary.3

Genetic Testing for Hereditary Cancer Syndromes

Genetic testing for hereditary cancer can help clarify your risk of developing cancer(s). Your healthcare provider may recommend genetic testing for a hereditary cancer syndrome if you have been diagnosed with cancer at an early age, or if certain cancers run in your family. A genetic counselor can help determine, based on your personal and family history of cancer, which test, if any, would be most suitable for you and your family.


  1. National Institutes of Health. Accessed April 22, 2019.
  2. American Cancer Society. Accessed May 22, 2019.
  3. National Kidney Foundation. Accessed May 22, 2019.
  4. American Society of Clinical Oncology. Accessed August 23, 2019.