If you are worried about your family history of cancer

If you are worried about a history of cancer in your family, talk to your GP. They may be able to reassure you, or refer you to a clinical genetics service or family cancer clinic.

If you are referred, a genetics specialist will talk to you about the history of cancer in your family. You may be offered a genetic test to check if there is an inherited cancer gene in your family. These tests look for changes (alterations) in genes that increase the risk of getting breast, ovarian or bowel cancer, as well as some rarer cancers. 

Sometimes if you have a relative with one of these cancers, they can be tested for the cancer gene as well. If you do not have a living relative affected by cancer, you can still talk to your specialist about having the test.

People with a strong family history of some types of cancer (bowel or breast cancer) may be offered earlier or more frequent screening than other people. 

We have more information about genetic testing. We also information if you are worried about breast, bowel, ovarian or prostate cancer.

Back to Family history

Genes and how they work

Genes are passed down to us from our biological parents. They affect how our bodies look, grow and work.

Cancer and genes

Faults (mutations) in some genes can cause cells to grow in an uncontrolled way, forming tumours.