Familial Cancer and Non-Familial Cancer Risk

Familial Cancer and Non-Familial Cancer Risk

Most cancer is caused by random chance.  Cancer can also be caused by exposure to X-ray radiation, smoking, or what we eat and drink.  The biggest cancer risk factor is age.  The older we get the more likely it is that we will get cancer.

Although most cancer does not travel within families, sometimes it does.  In some families there are genetic changes that result in a high chance of getting cancer.  These genetic changes are called cancer predisposition variants, pathogenic variants, or mutations.  They are passed down from parent to child like other genetic traits.  Not everyone with familial cancer predisposition will get cancer, and not everyone that has cancer in these families has the cancer variant.

No matter who you are there are things you can do to prevent cancer.  For families with a cancer variant, one of the most important things is to make sure that everyone who is at risk gets genetic testing, to know if they have the cancer variant or not.  If someone finds out that they have a cancer predisposition variant before they get cancer, they can take preventive action, like getting frequent screening or surgery to prevent cancer.  If someone finds out that they do not have the cancer variant that is in their family, it is best for them to follow general cancer prevention practices and manage their health based on their personal risk factors.