Cancer Risks In Family
Family history of cancer can up your own chances of getting the disease. So it’s important to identifythe cancers that dot the family history and take precautionary steps.
But first it’s good to know how family history can increase your chances of getting cancer.
Family History and Risk of Cancer
Assessing family health history can potentially reduce burden of cancer at an individual and societal level. Studies show that individuals who have one or more first-degree relatives with cancer are often at increased risk for developing cancer. This is attributedto the interaction of multiple genetic variants that are more prevalent among relatives.
Have said that, cancer usually occurs in older people. It is also a common disease. Most families will have at least one member who has had cancer. But having a few relatives diagnosed with cancer over the age of 60 doesn’t mean there is a cancer gene running in the family.
So it’s not the older relatives but the younger ones that count as far as the family history and cancer link is concerned. So the more relatives who have had the same or related cancers and the younger they were at diagnosis, the stronger the family history. These are the cancers that are likely caused by an inherited faulty gene.
How Genetic Mutation Works
We have heard that cancer is caused by genetic mutation. A better idea of how the mutation works helps you understand cancer better.
Inside almost every single cell of the human body is a control centre of the cell, known as the nucleus. Inside the nucleus are genes.The genes are coded messages that instruct cells how to behave. They control how the body grows and develops. Each body has about 25,000 genes. In a normal body the cells function as they are supposed to. But sometimes you see a change in a gene’s functioning. This is called a ‘fault’ or ‘mutation’. When something goes wrong with one or more of the genes in a cell, it could be the first step towards cancer.It is a ‘first step’ because usually a cell must have 6 or more gene faults before it turns cancerous. The faults can hinder a cell’s functioning. On becoming cancerous it may divide and grow uncontrollably. Most gene changes happen during our lifetime but some can be inherited from a parent.
Even with a family history of cancer it’s not the end of the world. Timely diagnosis can be very helpful. Talk to the family doctor about your family’s history of cancer. He may refer you to a genetics specialist. Several studies suggest that persons meeting family history criteria for specific cancers may benefit from particular screening programs or initiating screening at an earlier age.
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