Proactive cancer risk test

What is cancer? What causes it?

Learn more about what cancer is, what causes it and why it can affect anyone.
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Cancer is a collection of related genetic diseases.

It can start almost anywhere in the body and affects people of all backgrounds at all ages - though it more commonly happens as we get older.

It is usually caused by cells growing uncontrollably which leads to a tumour that can spread around the body.

On this page, you'll learn

  • What is cancer
  • Difference between normal cells and cancer cells
  • What causes it
  • What 'drives' cancer
  • Who can be affected by it
  • What can we do to manage our risk
Our bodies are made up of building blocks called cells.

Within these cells are our chromosomes which are packages of DNA. Our DNA contains instructions that tell our bodies how to grow, develop and function.


Over time our cells divide to create new cells.

Over our lives, our cells continue to create new identical cells to support our growth and replace older worn out cells. It's a fundamental part of our life. The rate that cells replace themselves changes as we grow and develop.


Sometimes when these cells divide, genetic mistakes are made.

In these cases, the copied cell is not identical to the original. These gene variations occur by chance over time as our cells divide over and over again.

Think of it as copying over an entire encyclopaedia — it's hard to do without making a few mistakes.


Our body has checks and balances to fix these mistakes.

These checks and balances, like our immune system, work to fix mistakes made during the copying process. This helps keep our bodies healthy and functioning.


But sometimes these cells grow out of control.

Sometimes these gene variations result in cells growing out of control and no longer participating in the healthy functioning of our body. Instead they only pursue what they want — to grow and replicate.

As we age our bodies are more likely to make these mistakes and not be able to fix or replace these rogue cells fast enough to prevent long term problems.


Cancer happens when these cells grow and divide uncontrollably.

These cancer cells grow and divide at a faster rate than they die, which then causes a tumour to develop.

These variations can happen to anyone, which is why everyone has some risk of developing cancer.


Sometimes these gene variations can happen due to our environment and lifestyle.

Our environment and lifestyle factors, including sun rays, tobacco smoke or alcohol, can affect the likelihood of shifting the delicate balance between new cells growing and old cells dying.


Having a family history of cancer can also increase a person's risk.

Since families share DNA, having close family members who have had cancer can increase a person's risk compared to other people their age and gender.


Sometimes we inherit gene variations that increase our risk.

Even though all cancer is genetic, only some of us are born with a higher chance of developing it.


Not everyone with one of these gene variations will develop cancer.

These variations increase a person's risk of developing cancer, but it does not mean that they definitely will.

On the flip side, people without one of these gene variations can also develop cancer for other reasons.


Some gene variations are more common in certain ethnicities.

This is why certain types of cancer are often more common in certain ethnicities. Although, it's important to remember that cancer doesn't discriminate and can affect people of all ethnicities.


Eugene's proactive cancer risk test checks for these inherited gene variations.

It looks for gene variations in over 60 genes that can increase your risk of developing some of the most common types of cancer — including breast, bowel, skin and prostate cancer.


Armed with knowledge about your genetic risk, we can support you and your doctor to make informed healthcare choices for you.

By having a holistic understanding of your personal health history, your family history and your genetic risk your lifestyle and healthcare choices can be customised to improve the chances of a healthier future.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is genetic counselling?

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Genetic counsellors guide people in making important decisions around how genetics influences their health. They are not doctors, but are genetic specialists that are trained to identify, explore and explain genetic risk. They can help you be practically and emotionally prepared to make empowered choices that feel right for you.

At no additional cost, connect with your Eugene genetic counsellor to discuss your test results. They can help you understand your results, answer any questions and help you learn more about what your results mean for you.

If a gene variation is found that increases my risk, does that mean I will develop cancer?

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No. Genetics is only one part of the cancer risk puzzle. Having a gene variant in one of the genes included on our test will increase your chance of developing cancer, but not everyone who has a gene variation will get cancer in their lifetime.

There are many other factors that contribute to your risk, including environmental factors like exposure to the sun and lifestyle factors like smoking and exercise. If a gene variant is identified on our test, your results will include information about the specific gene variation you carry and how it influences your cancer risk so you can better understand your lifetime chance of developing that specific type cancer.

Could this test affect my ability to get insurance?

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In some cases this test could impact your ability to get life or income protection insurance.

Not impacted—

  • Your ability to get health insurance
  • Your existing life and/or income protection cover. However, if you want to take out cover or change your existing policy, this test may have an impact.
  • Life and other insurances through super that are group policies and don't take into account personal medical history.
  • If your result doesn't identify a gene variant then your insurance shouldn't be impacted.

Could have an impact —

  • If you want to take out cover or change your existing policy, this test may have an impact.
  • On policies that do consider your medical history, like underwritten policies above certain coverage amounts (currently $500,000 for life insurance). If a gene variation that increases your risk of cancer is identified before you have taken out cover, you may be denied cover, or have to pay a higher premium or have policy exclusions.

For more information about how life and other insurance products may be impacted by genetic testing, visit the Financial Services Council or the Center for Genetics Education website.

How are my results used by my doctor in my ongoing care?

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Your result will help you and your doctor determine any action strategies for prevention and early detection that might be appropriate for you.

You can learn more about that here.

How can I share results with my doctor?

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Eugene's proactive cancer risk test includes a personal clinical report that will have details about your results, that you can share with your doctor. The clinical report is available for you when you receive your results.

You can also speak with a Eugene genetic counsellor at no additional charge. Genetic counsellors can help you understand your results, consider next steps, and discuss how to share information with doctors and family.

What's the turnaround time?

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From the moment we receive your saliva sample, the turnaround time to get your results is 3 to 4 weeks.

Is there support to help me understand my results?

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Absolutely! Each test comes with a post test genetic counselling session. Your Eugene genetic counsellors are all trained and have practiced across a number of specialties in addition to carrier screening and together with our consultant geneticists and widespread network of healthcare professionals, we make sure you're always connected and supported.

Are my results and personal info protected?

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As a healthcare company, we comply with the most stringent local and international privacy and security regulations. We take incredible care to use technical, process and physical safeguards to secure your personal information and protect it against misuse, loss or alteration.

Finally, Eugene doesn't share any your data with anyone but you and (with your express permission) your doctor.

I don't have a family history of cancer, is this still relevant for me?

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Yes. Even if you don't have a family history you could still have a genetic risk that increases your own risk. Not everyone who carries an increased risk gene variant will develop cancer, so not every family will have a cancer history. So, while gene variations that increase cancer risk are rare, knowing whether or not there's one in you or your family could be lifesaving.

What happens to my sample once the test is complete?

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Your saliva sample is destroyed after 60 days. In unusual cases when testing takes longer than 30 days, the specimen will be retained until the report is delivered.

More questions?

We’ve pulled together a few other things we think might help in this FAQ – if you have any more questions for us, just get in touch!
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