As the molecular basis of disease continues to be elucidated, familial cancer syndromes, which consist of a range of neoplastic and non-neoplastic features, are emerging. The usual pathway of referral to a genetics clinic or familial cancer centre is via an oncologist, when high-risk features that suggest a possible hereditary basis for the presenting cancer are recognised. Traditionally, these high-risk features include more than two family members with similar cancers over two or more generations, a young age of onset, and more than one synchronous or metachronous tumour. These features are effective in ascertaining a substantial proportion of families with hereditary breast and ovarian cancer due to a BRCA mutation, or the more common bowel-cancer predisposition syndromes, such as hereditary non-polyposis colon cancer and familial adenomatous polyposis. However, there are a range of familial cancer syndromes that are not easily detected and that can remain undiagnosed when history and examination are not extended to include non-malignant features. The identification of cutaneous signs associated with rare familial-cancer syndromes provides individuals and their families with the opportunity to undertake early surveillance for malignant and non-malignant complications that might in time be shown to improve outcomes.