Can Cancer Be Passed Down In Families? Here’s What You Need To Know

Cancer is caused by genetic changes in the cell. Cancer isn’t caused by a single mutation. Multiple mutations can cause cancer over a period of years. This explains why the prevalence of cancer is higher in elderly people over 70 years of age.

Dr G. Arun Kumar, Scientific Affairs Manager, MedGenome Labs Ltd, Bangalore shares how genes contribute to cancer. “Genes are the carriers of all protein-producing instructions, which do most of the work in our cells. Some gene alterations can cause abnormal growth of cells, which is uncontrolled, rapid, and cancerous. Such changed genes are classified as oncogenes or cancer genes”, he said.

Oncogene contributes to increased protein production, which makes cells expand quickly and uncontrollably. Others lead to the development of a protein in a non-functional form that usually restores cellular damage.

Our parents will inherit genetic variations that cause cancer if there are alterations in germ cells, which are the reproductive cells of the body (eggs and sperm). These changes, called germline changes, are present in every cell of the offspring. If we have a family history of cancer, the odds of getting cancer are between 5% and 10%.

Breast, ovarian, colorectal and prostate cancers are several common cancers. In families, many people have cancer, not because of genes, but because of unhealthy practices. Lack of exercise, unhealthy eating habits, obesity, consumption of tobacco or smoking, are some of the factors responsible for cancer.

In all cancers, the most frequently mutated gene is TP53, which produces a protein that suppresses tumour development. In addition, Li-Fraumeni syndrome, a rare, inherited condition that leads to a greater risk of developing some cancers, may be caused by germline mutations in this gene.

Inherited mutations in the genes BRCA1 and BRCA2 are associated with the syndrome of inherited breast and ovarian cancer, which is a condition marked by an increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer in women during their lifetime. This condition has been associated with many other cancers, including pancreatic and prostate cancers, as well as male breast cancer.

Treatment Option Available

Cancer therapy has stepped away from a one-size-fits-all approach.

Immunotherapy has become a safe therapeutic choice for many cancer patients in the last decade but it’s not for every patient. In comparison to radiation and chemotherapy, immunotherapy does not treat cancer itself. Instead, it causes the patient’s own immune system to attack the disease.

A patient can require chemotherapy, depending on the stage and subtype of cancer, or it can also be safely prevented. Based on molecular testing, cancer treatment is increasingly being personalized – specific changes or mutations in cancer cells can help direct the treatment.

If you have a family history of cancer, follow a healthy lifestyle, don’t smoke, eat healthy food, exercise regularly, and undergo proper screening at the appropriate age.

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