General Health

Inheritable Cancers: What Do You Need to Know?

Unchecked cell growth is cancer’s main modus operandi. Cancer is brought on by damaging mutations in the genetic instructions (genes) that regulate cell growth and division, preventing the cells from performing their functions properly. Our parents each give us a single complete copy of our genes. A mutated cell can grow out of control and eventually develop into cancer because of the disrupted cell growth regulation caused by several accumulated mutations. Most cancer cases don’t have a strong family history and are not hereditary. The cancer-causing mutations in these families solely affect the tumor and are all acquired after birth.

Although the exact source is rarely understood, these acquired mutations may occur due to hormonal or environmental exposures or the occasional fault that happens during cell division. This sort of cancer is regarded as “sporadic” (a random event) and not hereditary as acquired gene mutations cannot be transferred from one generation to the next. Occasionally, random malignancies strike multiple members of a family.

Is cancer a hereditary disease?

Cancer is a genetic disease, meaning that specific gene mutations that regulate how our cells behave, (cell growth and division to be specific), are what lead to the disease. Proteins are the building blocks of our cells, and genes contain instructions needed to make them. Specific gene alterations can make cells resistant to the normal controls on growth, leading to cancer.

It is estimated that 5% to 10% of malignancies are inherited. In these situations, a person receives a working copy of the growth control gene from one parent and a copy of the mutated gene from the other parent. A “cancer susceptibility gene” is another name for the gene with the transformation. Every cell in the body contains the inherited cancer susceptibility gene, but only the functional copy allows each cell to function normally. A cell can lose its ability to control its development and form into cancer, though, if a mutation disrupts the working copy of the gene in that cell.

Malignancies that are inherited do not differ significantly from cancers that are not inherited. The way tumors manifest themselves within the family will reveal whether or not they may be inherited. In addition, people with more than one primary cancer, those with cancers that have been linked to hereditary cancers like breast cancer and ovarian cancer, colon cancer and uterine cancer, and those with moles and polyps associated with hereditary cancer are all risk factors for cancer.

How to test for inherited cancer?

A blood or saliva sample may be necessary for genetic testing. Point DNA mutations can be found using specialized lab analyses. The objective of testing is to obtain information that can lower your chance of developing cancer, not just a result. It is why the individual diagnosed with cancer is usually the first to undergo tests. There is no need to test your relative’s offspring if they don’t have an inherited mutation. It is possible to test for genetic mutations in other family members if they have one. Another reason to consult a genetic counselor is that genetic tests do not always yield a simple yes or no.

You shouldn’t check children unless they are old enough to begin cancer screening with procedures like mammography or a colonoscopy or unless they are having surgery to lower their risk of developing the disease.

You might not necessarily inherit a genetic mutation from your parents. Similarly, just because you have a genetic mutation doesn’t necessarily indicate your child does. Each case’s chances are equally likely. Genes are inherited in two copies: one inherited from their mother and one from their father, who both have two copies of each gene. It does not necessarily follow that you will develop cancer if you inherit a mutation that makes the disease more likely. It indicates that your risk is higher than the norm.


Navya Koshi

Navya Mariam Koshi is a diligent, self-motivated Pharm D graduate using this platform to leverage her skills in this field to provide excellent and exceptional health care services to the public.

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