The Clinical Genetics Service at Roswell Park Cancer Institute was established to meet the needs of individuals at high risk for hereditary cancer syndromes based on their personal and/or family histories of cancer. This program is comprised of professionals who provide individuals and their families with a comprehensive, personalized cancer risk evaluation – based on the most timely, accurate information available – in a caring, confidential setting. Counseling includes educating about the biology and genetics of cancer, constructing a genetic pedigree (family tree), evaluating the risk for cancer, providing options for prevention, surveillance and screening for cancer, facilitating and interpreting genetic testing and addressing the social, ethical and legal issues of genetic testing.
Genetics and Cancer
- One out of three Americans will develop cancer sometime in their lifetime.
- The cancer process usually begins when one cell grows and multiplies uncontrollably, forming a tumor that can spread to different parts of the body. This is a several step process and may take many years.
- Generally, the risk of developing cancer increases as we get older. In fact, most cases of cancer are diagnosed in people over age 55. However, a family history of cancer can increase the risk to develop certain types of cancer, even before age 50.
- Individuals at average risk for cancer (no personal or family history of medical conditions, exposures and/or cancers that would increase risk) should follow the recommended cancer screening guidelines for the general population.
- Individuals at increased risk for cancer (those at known or suspected increased risk due to personal or family history of certain medical conditions, exposures and/or cancers) may need to begin screening at an earlier age.
- All cancer is genetic, but not all cancer is inherited.
What do the terms GENETIC and INHERITED mean?
- Genetic means caused by a change in the genes, which are the units of instruction in most cells of our body that control our normal growth and development.
- Inherited or inheritance refers to characteristics or qualities we receive from our parents as a result of their passing on genes contained in their egg or sperm cells.
- Most cases of cancer (about 90%) occur by chance, starting in one cell in a specific site (organ) of the body. This cannot be passed on to the next generation (our children).
- Some individuals (about 5-10% of cases) are at increased risk for developing cancer because they inherited a gene change from either of their parents that makes them more susceptible to certain cancer(s). However, even with inherited risk for cancer, other genetic factors and environmental (not inherited) factors play a role in whether or not cancer will actually develop.