hi everyone. i was just wondering if all types of cancer is hereditary. my family (on both sides) has had some type of cancer (breast, pancreatic, lung, etc.) at some point in the past. i lost an uncle about 2 years years ago to pancreatic & it made me think about hereditary diseases.
There is a hereditary part to cancer. What this means is that it is possible to inherit genes that are more fragile and susceptible to certain types of damage or mutation which can lead to cancer.
I'm not sure but I think that over 100 'cancer' genes have been identified so far. However, as in all genetic illnesses, the mix and relative dominance of these genes determines what the actual odds are for getting a specific cancer. For example: breast and ovarian cancers have some genes in common while pancreatic and breast cancers do not appear to have any genes in common.
If you are concerned about your risk of cancer, overall and by specific type, pls consult a genetic counsellor. This is usually an M.D. specializing in genetic illnesses.
I'm not sure about how prevention interferes with inherited traits, but it is known that cancer is highly preventable. Just type in "cancer prevention" on a search engine.
From memory, these kind of things prevent cancer:
1) Not smoking
2) Eating a healthy diet, that is high in fruits and vegetables
3) Not drinking alcoholic beverages in excess
It is thought that about 50 to 80 percent of all cancers (in general) could be prevented this way. In some countries, where these healthy conditions exist, some forms of cancers are very rare. I don't believe that they really know completely why cancer is preventable, but there's clear evidence that you can reduce your chances of getting cancer.
In my opinion, I feel that the medical community doesn't mention this enough. Over 200,000 deaths each year could be eliminated just in the United States alone, with preventative measures.
Maybe someone can add their thoughts to this.... It's been a while since I read up on it.
[This message has been edited by rhody (edited 09-06-2002).]
I suppose that if you knew that you carried 2 or 3 specific oncogenes [genes that can become cancerous] and if you knew exactly how those oncogenes were activated, then you could attempt to avoid, limit or interfere with the biochemical reactions that those particular oncogenes normally participate in.
Rhody's advice about nutrition is very sound and sensible. Aside from that, there's gene therapy which is a high-tech futuristic alternative.
Gene therapy was first [officially] used in the U.S. around 1990 by NIH researcher French Anderson to treat a blood/immune system disorder.
Basically, the point of gene therapy is to ONLY remove and correct the damaged gene[s]. Simple idea, but it isn't simple to do yet because.
1) Despite the 'mapping of the human genome' - there are still too many unknowns, esp. when you slice and dice the human genome.
2) Some cancers are activated by more than one gene and each gene may reside on a different chromosome.
3) The on/off switch is sometimes located far from the gene it activates; therefore, in the case of more than one gene being responsible, more than one on/off switch would need to be located, removed/corrected. [It isn't certain yet whether genetic on/off switches recognize only one specific gene configuration, whether they respond to some other cue/signal, etc.]
4) The more splicing and dicing, the greater the risk of an error. A retro-fit is always more difficult than starting from scratch.
Anyway, there are still many technical challenges before gene therapy can be widely used even though it still appears to be a promising medical interventional strategy for genetic disorders. Also, the embryonic stem cell debate has diverted some interest and funding from this area.
BTW - gene therapy is not the same as cloning. Public funded gene therapy research in North America is restricted to the manipulation of genes within somatic cells and not to genes in the germ cell [ovum/sperm].
In Canada, one of the first uses of gene therapy took place in Montreal and was for an inoperable brain cancer. The treatment was a success.
thanx....that really clears things up. i hope that there will be more advanced research coming up in the future, and maybe (wishful thinking) there will be a cure for cancer. thanks again for replying.