Fear of hereditary cancer is often overestimated according to a survey by Cancerbackup, which has now merged with Macmillan Cancer Support.
The survey found that: Nine out of ten people overestimate their risk of inherited cancers when someone in their family has had cancer, and 60 per cent of people think that family history is the biggest risk factor for cancer. In fact the biggest factors are increasing age and lifestyle choices like smoking.
With so many people unnecessarily concerned about their possibility of getting inherited breast or ovarian cancer, Macmillan has launched OPERA (Online Personal Education and Risk Assessment) - the first online interactive software program which gives personalized information of a person's risk of inherited breast and ovarian cancer and where to get further advice.
The BRCA gene which can cause inherited breast and ovarian cancer is actually relatively rare and it causes fewer than ten per cent of cases of these cancers.
Dr Andrea Pithers, Genetic Information Project Manager at Macmillan Cancer Support, says:
"Many people worry unnecessarily that if a family member has had cancer they themselves will have a significantly higher than average chance of getting cancer.
"By simply typing in some details of your family medical history, OPERA can provide personalized information and advice on whether there might be an inherited genetic link and where to go for further information and support."