Genetic causes of cancer predisposition in children and adolescents
The acquisition of de novo somatic mutations accounts for approximately 90% of all new cancer diagnoses, while the remaining 10% is due to inherited genetic traits. In this latter category, individuals harbouring germline mutations show a higher likelihood of developing potentially life-threatening cancers, often at a very young age. The study of cancer genetics has profoundly helped our understanding of cancer biology, leading to better characterised malignancies, tailored targeted therapies and the identification of individuals at high risk of cancer diagnosis. This review will discuss examples of cancer syndromes in children, adolescents and young adults, the main underlying gene mutations, and the use of genetic testing to identify gene mutation carriers. Finally, we will describe how gene mutation detection is employed for the life-long management of patients with high susceptibility to cancer, including genetic counselling, increased surveillance, early intervention and use of targeted therapies.