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NCI Dictionary of Genetics Terms

NCI Dictionary of Genetics Terms

sporadic cancer


This term has two meanings. It is sometimes used to differentiate cancers occurring in people who do not have a germline mutation that confers increased susceptibility to cancer from cancers occurring in people who are known to carry a mutation. Cancer developing in people who do not carry a high-risk mutation is referred to as sporadic cancer. The distinction is not absolute, because genetic background may influence the likelihood of cancer even in the absence of a specific predisposing mutation. Alternatively, sporadic is also sometimes used to describe cancer occurring in individuals without a family history of cancer.