What are inherited conditions that increase the risk of cancer?

There are some rare inherited conditions that can increase the risk of cancer. If you or a family member is affected by a rare inherited condition, you may want to contact Genetic Alliance UK for information and support.

Familial melanoma

This is linked to skin cancer and sometimes pancreatic cancer.

Von Hippel-Lindau syndrome VHL

This causes an increased risk of cysts or tumours in the:

  • brain and spinal cord
  • eyes and ears
  • kidneys
  • adrenal glands
  • pancreas.

Multiple endocrine neoplasia MEN syndromes

These are linked to benign growths and cancer in different endocrine glands. We have more information about the MEN 1 and MEN 2 syndromes.

Li-Fraumeni syndrome

This causes an increased risk of several cancers from childhood onwards, including breast cancersarcomabrain tumours and leukaemia.

Other cancer types

There may be other genes we currently do not know about that probably increase the risk of cancer in some families. Researchers are trying to identify these genes. For example, it is likely that cancers of the testiclepancreasprostatestomach or kidney sometimes run in families. Having one relative with testicular, pancreatic, prostate, stomach or kidney cancer usually does not greatly increase your cancer risk. But if you are worried about several cases of one or more types of cancer in your family, talk to your GP.

If there is a chance there could be an unknown cancer gene in your family, you may be able to take part in a research study. You may be offered screening tests to help detect cancer early. You will also be told what symptoms to look for. This can help you find cancer earlier if it does happen.