• Shruti Rajan

Cancer and Heredity

The hereditary basis of cancer has always been a disputed topic. All cancer is triggered by altered genes, however, only 5 to 10 percent of cancer types are hereditary such as breast cancer, bowel cancer, prostate cancer, and stomach cancer. Inheritance may sometimes appear to be the reason for cancer, especially when the same type of cancer appears in families.

Hereditary can be one factor by which the genetic change that causes cancer can be inherited. For example, breast cancer which is the most common type of cancer seen in India is associated with the passing down of mutated BRAC1 and BRAC2 genes from parents to their children. The presence of such genes in the child may increase the risk of developing breast and many other cancers.

A family cancer syndrome also known as hereditary cancer syndrome is a rare disorder in which family members have a higher risk of developing a particular type of cancer. For example, familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) is a family cancer syndrome caused by specific inherited changes in the APC gene. People with FAP have a very high chance of developing colorectal cancer at an early age. Cancer can also run in a family if family members have a combination of many genetic variants that each have a very small cancer risk.

But the hereditary basis of cancer should not be overlooked and its diagnosis should be given as much importance as a cancer treatment. A genetic test can show whether a person has inherited a genetic change that can increase the risk of cancer. The testing is usually done with the help of blood samples, cells from the cheek lining, saliva, or skin cells. Not everyone needs to undergo this test it is only necessary if many people in your family have the same type of cancer or they develop cancer at a very young age.



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