Is Cancer Hereditary?

When talking about heredity and cancer it should be clarified that specialists are referring to the predisposition of developing the disease when the father or mother also had a certain type of tumor. But that does not mean that the person is doomed to have the condition.

There are many types of cancer, and in some of them there is a clear relationship with environmental factors, such as lung cancer and smoking, or skin cancer and excessive exposure to the sun. Others, however, are linked to hereditary issues. In the case of breast cancer, for example, the daughters of women who have had it are more prone to it.

It should be noted that cancer is a broad group of diseases characterized by the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells. While normal cells reproduce in an orderly fashion and grow with purpose – such as, for example, closing wounds – cancer cells grow without a special reason. They multiply without control destroying normal tissues and can spread to various parts of the body.

In men, the most common tumors are those of the skin, prostate, lung and colon or rectum. In women, skin, breast, colon, rectum, lung and uterus. For both sexes combined, the most common types are lung, colon, rectum and skin.

Cancers with Inherited Mutations

The importance of the environment

Some types of cancer can be prevented, but not all. Most lung tumors can be prevented if you do not smoke cigarettes. And skin can be prevented by avoiding excessive exposure to the sun or using sunscreens. Also, certain types of tumors produced by occupational or environmental factors can be avoided by eliminating or reducing contact with carcinogenic elements.

Prevention is to prevent something from happening; on the other hand, when talking about early detection, doctors refer to the possibility of finding out early enough that something is happening to be able to do something about it. If a cancer can be detected before it moves from its place of origin, it is much easier to perform a successful treatment. For example, a breast cancer detected early in its local stage has a survival rate of 91 percent. But this rate drops to 69 percent if it is detected once it has spread to the armpit nodes.

On the other hand, the specialists identified some specific cases in which it has been shown that there is a hereditary factor related to the disease. In the case of women who have been treated with estrogen in high doses, their daughters developed vulvar cancer. It is a frequently seen relationship and is well established with studies of large numbers of patients in the United States. These treatments with high doses of estrogen were done in the past, but now are no longer utilized.

Predictive genetics

Another disease that is inherited is the so-called multiple polyposis, which attacks young people and is an early manifestation of colon cancer. It is a very aggressive variety and very difficult to treat.

With regard to prostate cancer, which is one of the most common in men and is on the rise, a direct relationship with heredity has not been established. However, in cases where there is a family history, specialists recommend starting periodic checks at an earlier age, starting at age 45. This type of tumor has the advantage that, if detected early, it allows the control of the disease.

These cases are the best known; however, as knowledge of the human genome progresses, it will be possible to know more precisely what diseases can be endured for genetic reasons. In this way, it will be possible to anticipate several years to the development of a tumor, especially in those families where there is a predisposition to suffer it, since what is inherited is a predisposition.

It is anticipated that in the near future the realization of genetic studies will allow to establish almost exactly who will suffer each type of cancer.