Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"
I am a cervical cancer survivor. I am very concerned about my 14-year-old daughter contracting this horrible disease when she gets older. I have been told that it is not hereditary, but I am having serious difficulty believing this. My grandmother, mother, aunt and myself all contracted this disease at 32 years of age. My grandmother and mother both died from it. I have been told not to worry about my daughter getting this because she could not possibly inherit this type of cancer since it caused by HPV. I have never had any gynecologic problems including any STD's in the past and was rarely even sick until I was diagnosed with this. I find it hard to believe that all 4 people could get cervical cancer all at the same age without there being some kind of genetic factor.
Stephen C. Rubin, MD, Professor and Chief of the Division of Gynecologic Oncology, University of Pennsylvania Health System, responds:
Although it is certainly of concern that so many family members have had the same type of cancer, we do not usually consider squamous cancer of the cervix to be a hereditary condition. As you know, it is related to exposure to the human papilloma virus (HPV).
A recent report from the Swedish national cancer registry suggests that there might be some genetic component to cervical cancer, because mothers and sisters of individuals with cervical cancer were twice as likely to develop cervical cancer themselves. (Nature, July, 1999. 400; 29-31) Whether this is due to genetic or environmental factors is still unclear. It might be of interest to obtain and review the medical records for the involved relatives, to confirm exactly what their diagnoses were.