Hereditary Cancer

There is no doubt that heeding the advice of doctors to stay safe in the sun can help to protect you against skin cancer. But, for some people, the risk of skin cancer is increased purely as a result of their genes. If you’re one of these people, what can you do to minimise your risk of developing the disease?

To mark Skin Cancer Awareness Month, we consider the role of genetics and genetic testing in protecting yourself against hereditary skin cancers.

Skin cancer facts

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the UK, killing around 2,500 people a year.

More than 100,000 new cases are diagnosed annually.

The vast majority of these – 90% – are linked to sun exposure so it is important to take precautions to protect yourself against the sun’s harmful rays.

For an unlucky 10%, there is also an additional inherited risk. 


Inherited skin cancers

There are more than 100 types of tumours that are known to have inherited components, either in isolation or as part of a broader condition.

Between five and ten per cent of all melanomas arise in families and there are several hereditary syndromes and genes that are known to be linked to skin cancer.

Basal cell nevus syndrome is associated with an increased risk of basal cell carcinoma while squamous cell carcinomas are linked to syndromes like xeroderma pigmentosum, oculocutaneous albinism, epidermolysis bullosa and Fanconi anemia. 

A pathogenic variant of a gene called CDKN2A is estimated to account for 35-40% of all inherited melanomas and various other pathogenic gene variants are a contributory factor in melanomas. 

Genetic testing for hereditary cancers

If you are concerned or believe you may be at increased risk of skin cancer, genetic testing can identify your risk of developing up to 25 types of hereditary cancers, including skin cancer.

Myogenes offer one of the most comprehensive genetic cancer tests on the market. It analyses 98 genes from your DNA using a simple saliva test. 

The test can only be performed by a doctor, who then sends it away to the Myogenes laboratory for testing. A detailed report is prepared outlining your personalised risk of developing hereditary cancer. You will be able to discuss this with your doctor and agree a proactive plan to take control of your health.

Our Hereditary Cancer Test, including a telephone consultation with one of the Myogenes registered clinicians is £700.

Benefits of a hereditary cancer test

Knowing that you have an increased risk of hereditary skin cancer allows you to take proactive steps to manage your health. If you are at risk it is more important than ever to follow the recommended guidelines for staying safe in the sun.

These include wearing a sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 30 that you reapply frequently, keeping out of strong sunlight and covering up with loose, long-sleeved clothing. In addition you should also discuss with your doctor any preventative measures you can take such as undergoing regular cancer screening or possibly taking preventative medication to lower your cancer risk.

Early detection of cancer saves lives so being aware of your increased risk will enable you to remain extra vigilant for the early signs of the disease. You should also discuss the increased risk with close family members, such as children, parents and siblings as they may have up to a 50% chance of carrying the same genetic mutation.

Next steps

For more information about genetic testing for hereditary cancer risk speak to your GP, consultant or clinician, or call the friendly team at Myogenes.