Facts and Figures

Each and every one of us inherits two copies of genes – one copy from our mother and one copy from our father. Most people are born with two normal copies of each gene. Hereditary cancer occurs when a person is born with changes or mutations in one copy of a damage-controlling gene which normally protects and fight cancer cells. People with an inherited gene change have a 50% chance of passing the mutation to each of their children. These changes may increase the risk for cancers in different parts of the body. However, these changes do not increase the risk for every type of cancer, and not everyone who is born with a gene change will develop cancer.


  • Griffiths, A.J.F., Wessler, S.R., Carroll, S.B. and Doebley, J., “2”. Introduction to Genetic Analysis (10 ed.). New York, W.H. Freeman and Company. pp. 57. ISBN 978-1-4292-2943-8, 2012.

Research Focus

Although Asians make up 60% of the 7 billion people in this world, we make up less than 5% of genetic studies. Cancer Research Malaysia strives to fill the gap in Malaysia through its various programmes in the genetics and pyschosocial aspects of familial cancers.

We aim to understand the motivations, barriers and decision-making process within families that have so that more high risk individuals can benefit from understanding their risk through genetic tests and to understand their information and support needs in choosing life-saving risk management strategies.

    • WHY?
      In the past, cancer screening has been fraught with difficulty because we could not accurately identify the individuals at risk, for whom targeted screening could save costs and save lives. In the past decade, we know more about genes that cause individuals to have high risk to cancers and these discoveries have reinvigorated opportunities for targeted screening.
    • WHAT?
      Since 2003, Cancer Research malaysia, together with University Malaya Medical Centre (UMMC) and Sime Darby Medical Centre (SDMC), have been offering genetic counselling and genetic testing for breast cancer patients through the Malaysian Breast Cancer Genetic Study and since 2008, this has been extended to ovarian cancer patients through the Malaysian Ovarian Cancer Genetic Study.
    • In both of these studies, individuals who have high risk of having inherited an altered BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene [such as individuals who develop breast cancer before the age of 35, or individuals with immediate family members with breast or ovarian cancer] are provided with genetic testing. In addition, through an extended family study [MyEpiBrCa], we are determining the risk of cancers in family members and whether this can be modified by lifestyle and genetic factors.
      Help yourself and help your loved ones by finding out whether you have a high risk of breast and ovarian cancer:
      1. Find out about your family history
        A family history of breast cancer means having one or more blood relatives who have, or had, breast or ovarian cancer. These relatives could be on either the father’s, or the mother’s side of the family. Understanding your family history of breast or ovarian cancer can provide an indication of your chance of getting the disease.
      2. Arrange for genetic counselling
        A trained clinical geneticist or genetic counsellor is someone with special knowledge of the link between genes and inherited illnesses, and will help you understand your family history and your risk of developing breast cancer. Genetic counselling should also provide you with all the information about and implications of genetic testing, so as to help you decide whether you wish to proceed further.

    Contact Ms Yoon Sook-Yee at 03-56391874 to arrange for genetic counselling or if you would like more information about genetic testing.

    • WHY?
      Discovery of the high penetrance cancer genes, such as the breast and ovarian cancer genes BRCA1 and BRCA2, or the colorectal cancer genes MSH1, MSH2, PMS2, and the ability to offer genetic counselling and genetic testing has led to the identification of individuals at risk and the ability to offer these individuals preventative risk management strategies to reduce their risk.
    • However, to date, these genes account for less than 20% of excess familial risk to cancer. Advances in genome sequencing technology and the affordability of such genome sequencing in the past few years opens up the possibility of identification of predisposition genes.
    • WHAT?
      One of the main objectives of the Malaysia Familial Cancer Study (MyFamily) is to to identify cancer predisposition genes associated with familial cancer by utilising whole exome sequencing approach. Also, we strive to determine the association of germline mutations in these putative cancer predisposition genes through co-segregation analyses and through validation through case-control analyses (where available).
    • HOW?
      In this project, Malaysian families with 2 or more related cancers are invited to be part of this research to identify the cancer predisposition genes through whole genome/whole exome sequencing of germline DNA so that we may understand the aetiology of disease better.
      If you have a family history of the mentioned above or if you are a clinician who has seen clustering of cancers in families and would like to participate in the MyFamily Project, please contact Ms Yoon Sook-Yee at 03-56391874 or by email at sookyee.yoon@cancerresearch.my