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Cancer Genetics

Risk of Inheriting Colon Cancer

03/31/2003

Question:

My grandma on my father`s side has colon cancer, Is it possible that I could have it to. Also my dad`s uncle died of cancer, And my could also have cancer because of his large moles on his back.

Answer:

Most colon cancer is not inherited, although about 10-20% of people with cancer also have a relative with cancer. In some situations, this is just a chance occurrence, but in a small number of situations, the cancers in the family are the result of inherited cancer susceptibility. To more accurately determine whether the cancers in your family are inherited, it would be important for you to determine the age at which your grandmother was diagnosed with colon cancer. It would also be important for you to learn what kind of cancer your uncle had and the age at which he was diagnosed and whether other members of your family have been diagnosed with cancer. With this information, you can talk with your doctor and determine whether your family history is concerning enough to proceed with further evaluation with a cancer genetics professional. Your doctor can help you find a cancer genetics professional in your area. With regard to the moles on your (father`s?) back, he should bring these to the attention of his doctor. If they are pre-cancerous, they can be removed. Please keep in mind that not all moles will become cancers. Signs that should alert some concern include changes in shape, size, and coloration. Your father`s doctor will be able to determine whether the moles should be removed or not.

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Response by:

Duane D Culler, PhD, MS Duane D Culler, PhD, MS
Clinical Instructor of Genetics
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University