Open Access Research article

Significant evidence for a heritable contribution to cancer predisposition: a review of cancer familiality by site

Frederick Albright1*, Craig Teerlink2, Theresa L Werner3 and Lisa A Cannon-Albright24

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Pharmacotherapy, University of Utah College of Pharmacy, Salt Lake City, UT, USA

2 Genetic Epidemiology, Department of Medicine, University of Utah School of Medicine, Salt Lake City, UT, USA

3 Oncology, Department of Medicine, University of Utah School of Medicine, Salt Lake City, UT, USA

4 George E. Wahlen Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Salt Lake City, UT, USA

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BMC Cancer 2012, 12:138  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-12-138

Published: 3 April 2012



Sound and rigorous well-established, and newly extended, methods for genetic epidemiological analysis were used to analyze population evidence for genetic contributions to risk for numerous common cancer sites in Utah. The Utah Population Database (UPDB) has provided important illumination of the familial contribution to cancer risk by cancer site.


With over 15 years of new cancer data since the previous comprehensive familial cancer analysis, we tested for excess familial clustering using an expanded Genealogical Index of Familiality (dGIF) methodology that provides for a more informative, but conservative test for the existence of a genetic contribution to familial relatedness in cancer.


Some new cancer sites have been analyzed for the first time, having achieved sufficiently large sample size with additions to the UPDB. This new analysis has identified 6 cancer sites with significant evidence for a heritable contribution to risk, including lip, chronic lymphocytic leukemia, thyroid, lung, prostate, and melanoma.


Both environmentally and genetically-based familial clustering have clinical significance, and these results support increased surveillance for cancer of the same sites among close relatives of affected individuals for many more cancers than are typically considered.