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Is cancer hereditary?

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βˆ™ 2010-06-14 22:31:34

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A hereditary disease is a disease caused by an abnormality in an individual's DNA which is inherited genetically. Although cancer is not caused by single gene inheritance like cystic fibrosis or sickle cell anemia, some types of cancer do exhibit multifactorial inheritance, which is a type of inheritance that is caused by a combination of environmental factors and mutations in multiple genes. Therefore, YES, certain types of cancer are hereditary.

Current scientific opinion is that cancer is a disease caused by mutations in DNA or changes in the way certain genes are expressed, so by its very nature, cancer can be hereditary. However, you must also understand that these mutations can be in either somatic cells (cells in your body pretty much everywhere except your reproductive organs) or they can be in both somatic and germ cells (cells which make eggs and sperm). Should the genetic abnormality which is contributing to cancer development be in germ cells, this abnormality can be passed from parent to child upon conception and is considered hereditary. Realize that everyone has some chance of developing cancer and that most cancers occur sporadically or by chance in only somatic cells. However, because hereditary cancer exhibits multifactorial inheritance, a person who has inherited such a gene mutation as described above, will not necessarily develop cancer but will have an increased risk to develop cancer in their lifetime.

There is a diverse array of the hereditary components which increase your risk to developing cancers, but types of cancer with a strong hereditary component (called familial cancers), include breast and ovarian cancers caused by inherited mutations in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes, or colon cancer caused by familial adenomatous polyposis, which is an inherited mutation in the APC gene. Inheritance of mutations in the APC gene will lead to the development of colon cancer in more than 90% of patients by the time they are 40 and is the classic example of a hereditary cancer.

AnswerNo. Things like Heart disease and diabetes are though. If cancer is in your history, you have a greater risk, but it is not hereditary. Answer

You can inherit a disposition to cancer, i.e. be at greater risk of developing a cancer due to genes passed down from a parent. However, the diseased state of cancer itself is not directly passed down through generations.

2010-06-14 22:31:34
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