Family Cancer Syndromes

Cancer Genetics

Dr. Judy Garber on Cancer Genetics

Cancer and genetics

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Genes are short segments of DNA deoxyribonucleic acid found in chromosomes. DNA contains the instructions for building anthony warlow and cancer. And proteins control the structure and function of all the cells that make up your body.

Think of your genes as an instruction manual for cell growth and function. Changes or mistakes in the DNA are like typographical errors. They may provide the wrong set of instructions, leading to faulty cell growth or function.

In any one person, if there is an error in a gene, that same mistake will appear in all the cells that contain the same gene. This is like having an instruction manual in which all the copies have the same typographical error. There are two types of DNA changes: Inherited DNA changes are passed down from parent to child. Inherited DNA changes are called germ-line alterations or mutations. DNA changes that happen over the course of a lifetime, as a result of the natural aging process or exposure to chemicals in the environment, are called somatic alterations.

Some DNA changes are harmless, but others can cause disease or other health issues. DNA changes that negatively affect health are called mutations. Most inherited cases of breast cancer are associated with mutations in two genes: The function of the BRCA genes is to repair cell damage and keep breast, ovarian, and other cells growing normally. Women who are diagnosed with breast cancer and have a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation often have a family history of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and other cancers.

Still, most people who develop breast cancer did not inherit a genetic mutation linked to breast cancer and have no family history of the disease, cancer and genetics. If one family member has a genetic mutation linked to breast cancer, it does not mean that all family members will have it.

Breast cancers associated with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation tend to develop in younger women and occur more often in both breasts than cancers in women without these genetic mutations.

Cancer and genetics is about 80 times greater than average. Men with a BRCA1 mutation have a slightly higher risk of prostate cancer. Men with a BRCA2 mutation are 7 times more likely than men without the mutation to develop prostate cancer.

Mutations in other genes are also associated with breast cancer. People with Fanconi anemia also have a higher risk of several other types of cancer, including kidney cancer and brain cancer. For more information, visit the Breastcancer.

If you know you have an abnormal gene linked to breast cancer, there are lifestyle choices you can make to keep your risk as low it can be:.

These are just a few steps you can take. Review the links on the left side of this page for more options. Along with these lifestyle choices, there are other risk-reduction options for women at high risk because of abnormal genetics. Two SERMs selective estrogen receptor modulators and two aromatase inhibitors have been shown to reduce the risk of developing hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer in women at high risk.

In addition to the recommended screening guidelines for women at average risk, cancer and genetics, a screening plan for a woman at high risk may include:.

Women with an abnormal breast cancer gene need to be screened twice a breast cancer and estrogenic foods because they have a much higher risk of cancer developing in the time between yearly screenings. A breast ultrasound is another powerful tool that can help detect breast cancer in women with an abnormal breast cancer gene. This test does not take the cancer and genetics of digital mammography and MRI scanning.

Talk to your doctor, radiologist, and genetic counselor about developing a specialized program for early cancer and genetics that addresses your breast cancer risk, cancer and genetics your individual needs, and gives you peace of mind. Removing the healthy breasts and ovaries -- called prophylactic surgery "prophylactic" means "protective" -- are very aggressive, irreversible risk-reduction options that some women with an abnormal BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene choose.

The surgery removes nearly all of the breast tissue, so there are very few breast cells left behind that could develop into a cancer and genetics. Prophylactic removal of both ovaries and fallopian tubes reduces the risk of ovarian cancer in women at any age, before or after menopause, cancer and genetics.

Research also has shown that women with an abnormal BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene who have prophylactic ovary removal have better survival if they eventually are diagnosed with breast or ovarian cancer. The benefit of prophylactic surgeries is usually counted one year at a time.

Talk to your doctor about your personal level of risk and how best to manage cancer and genetics. There is still a small risk that cancer can develop in the areas where the breasts used to be. Close follow-up is necessary, cancer and genetics, even after prophylactic surgery. Prophylactic surgery decisions require a great deal of thought, patience, and discussion with your doctors, genetic counselor, and family over time -- together with a tremendous amount of courage.

Take the time you need to consider these options and make decisions that feel comfortable to you. Think Pink, Live Green: A Step-by-Step Guide to Reducing Cancer and genetics Risk of Breast Cancer teaches you the biology of breast development and how modern life affects breast cancer risk. Order a free booklet by mail or download the PDF of the booklet to learn 31 risk-reducing steps you can take today. Was this article helpful?


Cancer and genetics