Melanoma can run in family genetics. 1 in every 10 patients has a family member who has also had the disease.
Dr Sarah Taylor, GatewayC GP Lead, speaks to Dr Fiona Lalloo, Consultant Clinical Geneticist, about cancer genetics.
- There are 2 types of genetic mutations:
- Somatic mutations – these are mutations which are confined to the tumour and are useful to direct treatment
- Germline mutations – these are mutations which affect every cell in the body. This can affect treatment but can also cause a predisposition to malignancies for the patient and members of their family
- Patients with germline mutations need referral to a genetics service. This is normally done by the oncology team, but primary care practitioners may be asked to refer family members
- In that case it useful to know the name of the affected patient, the type of cancer and where they are being treated
- Many cancers are environmental but 5-10% of cancers have a germline mutation
- There are some cancer syndromes which have specific clusters of cancer types.
The National Genomic Test Directory lists the referral criteria for genetic testing for patients who are concerned about a family history of cancer.
Factors which increase the probability of a germline mutation are:
- cancers occurring at young age
- individuals with more than one primary
- clusters of cancer within a family
Many cancers are environmental, but 5-10% of cancers have a germline mutation.
There are some cancer syndromes which have specific clusters of cancer types.
Genomic testing in Wales
While the National Genomic Test Directory is owned, controlled and maintained by NHS England, the Welsh Health Specialised Services Committee (WHSSC) approve funding of genomic testing in line with the criteria identified in the Test Directory and implementation of these tests is being clinically prioritised in collaboration with a range of clinicians through the All Wales Medical Genomics Service.
Link: National Genomic Test Directory, NHS England (2022)
Link: All Wales Medical Genomics Service
Link: Specialised Services Policy Position – Genomic Testing, NHS Wales (2020)