It seems as though everyone in my family has had cancer.

There are many reasons why cancer may seem to run in family.

Firstly, cancer is a common disease.  In Australia, 2 out of 3 people can expect to have some type of cancer during their lifetime and 1 out of 10 women will be affected by breast cancer by age 75.

Fortunately, most cancers occur by chance. Mistakes get made in the genetic code when a cell, such as a breast cell, copies itself. If these mistakes are in growth genes or cancer protection genes, a cancer, such as a breast cancer, can occur. This kind of cancer is not inherited and tends to occur at an older age.

Some factors increase the chance of mistakes being made.  An example is sun exposure and melanoma.  Families often share lifestyle and environmental factors that may either increase or decrease the risk of cancer.

Occasionally, there is a mistake in an important gene that was present at birth. This kind of change can be passed from a father or a mother to their child.

If you are concerned about your family’s history of cancer, you should discuss it with your doctor.  You can also read more about clues pointing to an inherited cause for the cancer in your family.

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