Is cancer genetic? If your grandfather had cancer, does that mean you’re more likely to have it? If your mother’s second cousin died of cancer, is your risk higher?
How much of a role does heredity play in causing cancer?
What’s your cancer risk? <—- take this short quiz
Many people believe they’ll get cancer at some point in their lives simply because a family member was diagnosed. In most cases, this is not true because 95% of cancer is not hereditary.
Hereditary means that you inherit something directly through the genes of your mother and/or father. This could be an illness caused by a mutated gene or their beautiful blue eyes.
According to the American Cancer Society, only about 5% of cancers classified as genetic or “strongly hereditary.”
Not all causes of cancer are understood, despite the fact that it is the #2 killer in the world. There are many complexities of the disease.
When Cancer is Genetic
Parents can pass faulty genes on to their children. You inherit genes from both of your biological parents so if one parent has a faulty gene, their offspring has a 1 in 2 chance of receiving the gene. Some children will receive a faulty gene that predisposes them to developing a certain form of cancer and some will not.
Being born with an inherited gene does not mean cancer will ever develop. If a child inherits the faulty gene and they develop cancer, it is more likely to occur earlier in their lives than those without the genetic mutation.
The BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes linked to breast, ovarian, prostate, and other cancers are prime examples of genetic causes of cancer. Specific inherited mutations of these genes have been linked to an increased risk of breast and ovarian cancers and these tend to develop at a younger age than cases not associated with these genes.
In hereditary cases of breast cancer, these particular genes account for approximately 20-25% percent of cases and 5-10% of all breast cancers. These risks are also affected by their environment, personal habits, the specific mutation inherited, and their reproductive history.
There may be an ethnic factor involved. BRCA1 and BRCA2 genetic mutations may be more prevalent in people of Ashkenazi Jewish, Icelandic, Norwegian, and Dutch descent appear to have a higher incidence of these mutations than the rest of the United States populace.
There are genetic tests available that can confirm whether you have specific genetic risk factors present in your body. These tests are typically performed in conjunction with genetic counseling. During this process, patients are taken through all of the possible results from tests and how to make decisions based on these results. What can they do to prevent the development of the cancer? Will it be passed on to their children?
In many cases, confirmation of a genetic mutation equates to more diligence in maintaining healthy lifestyle habits and getting cancer screenings earlier or more frequently than the majority.
Some women who discover they have a higher genetic probability for breast cancer choose to have a bi-lateral prophylactic mastectomy to reduce their personal risk. Others choose to have MRI’s rather than traditional mammograms because the MRI is more sensitive and can detect any anomaly sooner than a mammogram. Genetic counseling can assist them in making these difficult decisions.
When the Cause of Cancer is Not Genetic
Though they may differ in cancer treatment, doctors and scientists agree that the majority of cancers are due to diet, habits, or the direct influence of something in your environment.
The good news is that most of these factors are controllable. That means that many people can seriously reduce their personal risk of cancer by making responsible choices about their lifestyle, nutrition, obesity, and avoiding obvious risks. Some environmental changes are also within your power.
Cancer is a result of damage to your DNA. Some known factors that cause direct damage to DNA are excessive exposure to ultraviolet light, smoking, insecticide use in commercial farming, chronic inflammation, chemical additives to food available in your local market, radon exposure in your home, and toxins found in water, soil, and items in your home.
These often-subtle carcinogens can cause irreparable damage to your DNA and interrupt the way your cells communicate. They send out faulty information and the damage accumulates over time. If a cell sustains damage and does not follow the standard protocol to destroy itself (apoptosis), it may begin to multiply. Each new cell created is a mirror image of the original damaged cell. This is how cancer begins.
Prevention is always the best option! Experts around the globe estimate that nearly half of all cancer cases are preventable with diet and healthy lifestyle changes.
Since only 5% of cancer is defined as hereditary, it is crucial to focus on the 95% of non-heredity cases. Intense anti-cancer education is necessary.
During one research survey, scientists found that less than 8% of respondents knew that being overweight or obese was a risk factor for cancer.
It’s time to reevaluate how we think about this disease, how we talk about it, how we prevent it, and how it is treated. What we are doing is not working. Too many people are being diagnosed and far too many lives are lost.
There is a Better Way
Scientists have only begun to scratch the surface of a disease that claims the lives of millions annually. However, the global scientific community is making fantastic strides in the right direction!
For instance, did you know…
Scientists in the Netherlands have cured over 10,000 cancer patients using “micronutrient” therapy?
An illegal plant (hemp) has been shown to be curative for 12 types of cancer?
That a certain type of water was cancer-protective for thousands of Russians after the Chernobyl incident?
Cancer is big business and we need to opt out of being part of its bottom line.
Our friends at The Truth About Cancer developed a short quiz that can tell you your cancer risk factor.