What is Cancer Genetics?
Cancer genetics is the study of how individuals’ personal and family history may increase their risk for certain cancers. Cancer genetics is becoming an important part of understanding the complex disease of cancer and the role that inheritance may play. Cancer may be caused by many things, such as exposures to chemicals in our environment, behaviors like smoking and the genes we inherit from our parents. In most cases cancer is likely the result of a complex interaction between all of these things. The genes we inherit from our parents are part of what might increase our risk for certain cancers. If the genes we inherit carry unexpected changes known as mutations that might put a person at a higher risk for cancer. For example, mutations in the genes called BRCA1 and BRCA2 put a person at a higher risk for breast and ovarian cancer. Genetic causes of cancer are not common. Recently genetic tests have been advertised as a way for people to find out if they are at risk. These tests are