The Genetics of Cancer

Cancer is a hereditary disease. It is caused by certain mutations in the genes that control our cell functions, especially their ability to divide and grow. These mutations take place often and most of the time the human body is able to correct them on their own. It depends on the position where the mutation takes place which makes it harmful, beneficial or without any real difference. A single mutation in genes is unlikely to cause cancer and it takes various mutations in multiple genes that leads to cancer. This is why cancer is more common among older people who have had a lot of time to build up these mutations.

Genetic Mutations

There are two types of genetic mutations that can take place inside the human cells: acquired mutations and germline mutations.

Acquired mutations: These mutations are the ones that commonly cause cancer. These mutations occur as a result of damage to the genes over a person’s life. These mutations are not passed from parents to their offspring. These mutations are usually caused by UV radiations, age, viruses and tobacco. The cancer caused by these genes is called acquired cancer.

Germline mutations: These mutations are less common and are passed from parents to children. In these cases, the mutations are present in all cells of the body including the germ cells. Since the mutations are present in the germ cells, they are passed on during the process of reproduction. The cancer caused by these genes is known as inherited cancer. It is about 5-10% of all cancers occurring in humans.

The Signs of Hereditary Cancer

There are some signs that can help in determining that cancer runs in the family. The signs are sometimes as simple as a member of the family being diagnosed with cancer. For other signs, you will have to closely look across various family members across generations to find if there is a certain pattern of the disease.

Types of Hereditary Cancers

Here is a list of some of the hereditary cancer syndromes commonly found in people.

  • Lynch syndrome increases the risk of colon, ovary, stomach, endometrial line, small bile duct and small intestine cancer
  • Cowden Syndrome increases the risk of breast and thyroid cancer
  • Peutz-Jegher Syndrome increases the risk of pancreas, breast and colon cancer
  • Li-Fraumeni Syndrome increases the risk of sacromas and breast cancer. Also has a close association with childhood adrenocortical carcinomas and brain tumors

Genetic Tests

To make sure you are not predisposed to cancer, it is important to take tests that can help in its early diagnosis. Early diagnosis can help in making effective treatment plans and increases the chances of recovery. Pathway Genomics offers genetic tests that screen a person of a number of genes that are associated with causing cancer. The knowledge from this test has helped physicians in making appropriate preventive or treatment plans for early detection. Take the test today to make sure you and your loved ones are not susceptible to cancer.