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Some types of cancer can run in families. For example, your risks of developing certain types of breast cancer, bowel cancer or ovarian cancer are higher if you have close relatives who developed the condition.
This doesn’t mean you'll definitely get cancer if some of your close family members have it, but that you may have an increased risk of developing certain cancers compared to other people.
It’s estimated that only about 2 or 3 in every 100 cancers (2-3%) are associated with an inherited faulty gene.
Cancers caused by inherited faulty genes are much less common than those caused by other factors, such as ageing, smoking, being being overweight and not exercising regularly, or not eating a healthy, balanced diet. Most cancers develop as a result of a combination of risk factors, which in some cases can include family history.
It's only likely that a cancer gene is present in a family if:
You should contact your doctor if some close family members have developed the types of cancer mentioned above and you’re worried that you might develop cancer yourself. They'll ask about your family history, and if they think there's a chance you have an increased risk of developing cancer, they'll refer you to a genetic counsellor, family cancer clinic or a cancer specialist.
Important: Our website provides useful information but is not a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor when making decisions about your health.