Cancer Genomics Program

Photo of a family

Knowing your family history of cancer and discussing it with a health care provider are important steps in understanding your cancer risk.

Knowing your family history of cancer and discussing it with a health care provider are important steps in understanding your cancer risk.

Although cancers with a strong connection to family history or genetics, called hereditary cancers, account for only about 10% of all cancers, people who get hereditary cancers and their families are—

  • At higher risk for getting cancer more than once.
  • More likely to get cancer at younger ages.
  • More likely to be diagnosed when the cancer is advanced.

People with a family history of cancer can talk to a health care provider to see if they are at high risk of cancer themselves. If so, a health care provider could explain current recommendations for people at high risk, such as getting screening tests earlier or more often than people who are at average risk.

CDC is conducting research and developing programs to help people and families who have a high risk of getting cancer.

About the Cooperative Agreement

CDC’s Cancer Genomics Program develops best practices in education, surveillance, approaches for policy and systems, and uses science for applying family history and cancer genomics in public health practice. The program’s main goals are to increase the number of people—

  • Who have collected information on their family history of cancer and shared it with a health care provider.
  • Appropriately referred to genetic counseling and testing.

Activities focus on hereditary breast and ovarian cancer syndrome and a form of hereditary colorectal cancer called Lynch syndrome. The program evaluates activities and strategies to understand their effect and to identify best practices to be used by other programs and organizations.

CDC funded three state health departments from 2011 to 2014external icon and five state health departments from 2014 to 2019 to develop activities in cancer genomics.

From 2019 through 2022, CDC’s Cancer Genomics Program is funding four state health departments to—

  • Educate the public about how a family history of cancer can affect their risk.
  • Help health care providers talk to patients about their family health history and the potential need for referral to a genetic specialist.
  • Use data from cancer registries, state surveys, and other sources to learn about hereditary cancers in their states, and the needs of providers and high-risk individuals and families.
  • Increase access to and use of clinical services like genetic counseling, genetic testing, and cancer screening for people at high risk.
  • Develop partnerships with health systems and state and local organizations to find ways to address the needs of people who have a high risk of cancer.

To learn more about the program’s strategies and outcomes, please read the logic model.

Map of the four state health departments that CDC’s Cancer Genomics Program is funding: Washington, Michigan, Oregon, and Utah.

CDC’s Cancer Genomics Program is funding health departments in Washington, Michigan, Oregon, and Utah.

Program Highlights

  • The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services’ Cancer Genomics Programexternal icon is using surveys to find out how easy or hard it is for patients to get genetic services, how many people are aware that they have a higher cancer risk because of their family health history and have discussed it with a doctor, how often doctors discuss family history of cancer, availability of genetic services in rural areas, and if everyone who has colorectal cancer is being screened for Lynch syndrome.
  • The Oregon Health Authority’s ScreenWise Programexternal icon works with the state’s breast and cervical cancer early detection program to educate the public about the importance of knowing their family health history. The campaign is sensitive to residents’ cultural and linguistic preferences, and partners with many local and regional organizations.
  • The Utah Department of Health’s Cancer Control Programexternal icon will analyze new data fields added to the state’s cancer registry. The fields capture genetic testing of people at higher risk of hereditary breast and ovarian cancer syndrome. The program is also exploring the feasibility of sending Lynch syndrome tumor screening results from pathology laboratories to the cancer registry automatically.
  • The Washington State Department of Health’s Screening and Genetic Unitexternal icon is promoting an app that makes it easier for family members to share the results of genetic testing. It also is collecting data from doctors to find out how they could serve patients better and are offering a special telephone hotline to increase cancer genetic testing among high risk families.