How common is a family history of cancer?
People sometimes think that several cases of cancer in their family may be connected, and that they have inherited an increased risk of developing cancer. But only a minority of cancers (5–10%, or less than 10 out of 100 cases) are clearly linked to an inherited gene change.
Cancer is a common illness. More than 1 in 3 people in the UK will get cancer during their lives. Most people who get cancer are over 65. It is relatively rare for young people (under 50) to get cancer. If you have only one elderly relative with cancer, you’re not usually at a significantly increased risk of getting the same cancer yourself.
This section of the website doesn’t cover very rare disorders that can increase a person’s risk of getting several different types of cancer at a young age. Our cancer support specialists can give you information about rare genetic disorders and cancer.