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Home News and Update Year 2010 Risk Of Developing Cancer May Lie In Your Genes: Study

Risk Of Developing Cancer May Lie In Your Genes: Study

DNA India
20 November 2010
By Santosh Andhale
Mumbai, India

When it comes to cancer, the nature–versus–nurture debate generally tilts in favour of the latter. But for all those who think that a healthy lifestyle is enough to keep cancer at bay, a study by the Cancer Genetics Unit at Tata Memorial hospital’s (TMH) Advanced Centre for Treatment, Research and Education in Cancer (ACTREC) should come as a surprise.

Your genes, the study says, determine more than your blood type and physical traits they may also determine your risk for developing diseases like cancer.

In a bid to reduce the burden of Indian family cancer legacies, TMH has begun working closely with over 1,000 Indian families with likely hereditary cancer syndromes.

"This specialised programme helps to better define cancer risks in the family by diagnosing hereditary cancers, performs cancer risk assessments based on each patient’s personal and family cancer histories, and provides medical recommendations for their management. Options for genetic testing, early detection, risk reduction and prevention are discussed and are available to the affected families and the medical fraternity," said Dr Rajiv Sarin of Tata hospital, principal investigator for this project.

Hereditary cancers comprise 2–5% of all cancers, which, due to genetic mutations predispose this group to high risks of developing cancer.

In these families, a change (called a germ–line mutation) in the genetic material, or DNA, predisposes those who carry it, to developing cancer. This germ–line genetic mutation may be passed down from parent to child, with each carrying a 50% risk of inheritance.

The project is the first and only comprehensive cancer genetics programme in South Asia, with a full–service genetics clinic, mutation analysis lab and a counselling centre.

"The consultation generally consists of a review of your personal and family cancer histories, basic cancer genetics education, a personalised cancer risk assessment based on established computer models, a discussion of the possible option of genetic testing, and medical recommendations for early detection, risk reduction and prevention, lifestyle modifications, and possible research opportunities," Sarin told DNA.

He added that the patients are required to bring details of cancer history of affected individuals in the family and age at diagnosis is extremely important for an accurate risk assessment.

Don’t take chances
You should get evaluated for inherited cancer pre–disposition if:
  • Several family members have had cancer of any kind
  • A relative with a confirmed cancer genetic mutation
  • Early age at cancer diagnosis in the family, i.e. family members diagnosed at a young age (For eg. below 35 in breast cancer, or in the 40s of colon cancers)
  • More than one primary cancer or in more than one location (not a spread, or metastasis) multifocal, bilateral, or multiple primary cancers
  • Rare or unusual cancer
  • Other genetic disorders/ syndromes in cancer patient or family
  • Concerns about hereditary issues in cancer–affected families

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