One of the common risk factors in the development of cancer is family inheritance. Well, most people love to inherit property from their family, but never the hereditary health issues including cancer. Cancer can result from faulty genes that are inherited across the generations from the affected individuals. Nonetheless, the point to note here is that it’s not really cancer which is passed across but the abnormal genes. These genes have the potential to cause cancer, but it’s not absolute that they will always cause it. So, in this fact lies our chance to prevent the risk of cancer. All you must do is keep a few things in your mind and religiously follow the preventive measures.
Which types of cancers are hereditary?
Before we go on to the cancer prevention tips, we must understand a few basics of the problem. First of all, you must know that not all cancers are hereditary. Only some cancers including prostate cancer, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and colorectal cancer are hereditary and can be passed along the generations through affected genes.
As we’ve already discussed there are certain abnormal genes which elevated the risk of cancer and could be transferred from parents to their children. As you must be aware that the genes of the parents are passed to their child through the means of gametes (sperms in males, and ova in females). If the faulty genes are present in these gametes, it involves the risk of cancer in the progeny. Such faulty genes are termed as inherited cancer genes or susceptibility genes.
How to define a strong familial history of cancer?
The risk of cancer is strongly linked to the presentation of cancer in the family (particularly on the same side of the family; maternal or paternal). The risk is higher with a strong family history, while a strong family history is suggested when two or more closely related individuals on the same side of the family have suffered from cancer. Another factor elevating to the risk is the occurrence of same type of cancer (like breast cancer) or different cancers caused by same abnormal gene (BRCA1 and BRCA2). The risk is even stronger when cancer presents itself under the age of 50. All these factors cumulate to pose a high risk of cancer with a strong familial history.
What can be done to lower the risk of hereditary cancer?
There is no cure better than prevention. Regular check-ups constitute the most important part of a prevention regime. Check-ups enable the doctor to diagnose cancer at an early stage, thus making the treatment easier and effective, while recovery far more comfortable. It’s advised that if you have a strong family history of cancer (or any other disease for that matter), you must visit a doctor within a maximum period of six months.
Some cancers can also present themselves at a very young age. For example, if you have a strong family history of breast cancer you must begin your preventive protocols with breast cancer screening in the 20s itself. During your 20s you must regularly perform self-examinations of the breast, while in the 30s regular clinical examination is advised and in the 40s and above mammography is recommended.
Regular check-ups are particularly helpful in BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations. These genes are responsible for making tumour suppressing proteins. In case of their mutations, these proteins aren’t manufactured, thus causing the tumours. Cancers associated with BRCA gene mutations are breast cancers, ovarian cancers, fallopian tube cancers, prostate cancers, peritoneal cancer, and pancreatic cancer. If there is a family history of any of these cancers, you must report to the doctor early.
Lifestyle plays an important role in not only preventing cancer but also several other lifestyle-related disorders like diabetes, heart diseases, obesity, dyslipidaemia etc. Making some modifications to your lifestyle certainly helps you in preventing so many diseases, or at least delaying their progress. Various changes you should accommodate in your routine to fight cancer include regular exercising, avoiding salty, high-carb diet and junk foods, avoid a sedentary lifestyle and quit smoking.
Awareness plays an important role in early detection of cancer, and its timely management. People should be made aware of different types of cancers, their causative factors and how to identify them early at home. It’s also important to tell people that they shouldn’t be afraid of cancer and report to the doctor at the first sign. Not all lumps are cancerous. Thus, without fear, you must go to a doctor to get any lump or swelling screened for cancer.