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Linking Families for Cancer Prevention


BYU's Center for Family History and Genealogy (CFHG) works in partnership with the nonprofit organization ConnectMyVariant on a public health initiative for families with genetic variants which cause increased cancer risk. These variants are in genes such as the BRCA1, MLH1, and PALB2 variants. Dr. Brian Shirts has shown that people with the same variant often share a specific common ancestor. His team identifies individuals who have one of these variants and puts them in contact with the CFHG's team of genealogy researchers.

The CFHG team works directly with participants to gather information about their known relatives. Genealogy researchers then use genetic and traditional genealogical research to build out the family trees of the participants. First, research is done to identify the participant's second and third cousins who may have the variant. The cousin information is sent to volunteer genetic navigators at ConnectMyVariant who then help the participant inform those relatives of their higher risk of cancer. This is done so preventative measures can be taken.

Next, the CFHG team conducts research to identify a common ancestor for multiple participants who have the same variant. Once the most recent common ancestor is found, descendancy research identifies all living descendants of that common ancestor. Information about the living descendants is sent to the participant and ConnectMyVariant, so that they can work together to notify these additional relatives of their potential cancer risk. Hereditary cancer is one of the most preventable types of cancer; family history is one of the keys to prevention.

To participate, people with a known inherited mutation can find out more and sign up at

Additional Links:
KSL News Radio: Genealogy cancer research beginning in Utah
Daily Herald: BYU Column: Fighting cancer with family history
BYU FHSS Blog: Fighting Cancer with Family History

Linking Families Contact information:
Phone: (801) 422-8638