Having read my prior article about genetics and cancer risk here, you may be asking yourself a simple question, “Am I likely to have a cancer-predisposing genetic mutation?”

Overall, such mutations are rare. Only about 5 – 10% of breast cancer patients, for example, may have a cancer-causing genetic mutation. Among the general (non-Jewish US) population, only about 1 in 400 may have such a mutation. These mutations also occur in persons of African/African-American descent.  Research has shown that about 23.8% of black women at highest risk for mutations, may have a BRCA 1 or 2 mutation.

In this article, “close family member”  refers to first, second, or third degree relatives.  Look here for a description of these terms.  For the average person who has never been diagnosed with cancer, the following may suggest a possible cancer-causing genetic mutation:

A close family member with a cancer-causing mutation

A close family member with 2 breast cancers, or more than 2 family members with breast cancer particularly if one was diagnosed early (<50 years of age)

Certain cancers in a close family member such as ovarian cancer, or breast cancer in a male relative.

Several family members with cancer, especially more than 2 cases of cancer. Examples may include cancer of the uterus, colon, pancreas, melanoma, brain cancer, and several others.

Non-cancerous findings such as polyps (growths) in the intestine, or certain skin changes.

This is not a comprehensive list. If there is any degree of concern based on personal or family history, the best thing it to have a discussion with your physician.  Perhaps you’d like to share your experience?  I’d love to hear from you.  Please leave a comment below.  If you found this helpful, please share with your friends.