According to health experts, cancer can be caused by genetic mutations and its risk can multiply if it runs in your family. Cancer can be caused by abnormal genes that get passed to the next generations by those affected.
In such a case, it is not cancer which is inherited but the abnormal genes, which may or may not cause cancer.
To prevent the risk of cancer, you must keep certain things in mind. We talked to Dr. Pramod Kumar Julka, Senior Director - Oncology Daycare Centre, Max Super Speciality Hospital, Saket and got effective tips to prevent cancer if it runs in your family. (However, it should be noted that there are also certain behaviours that can increase cancer risk, such as eating habits, lifestyle and lack of physical activity.)
Types of Cancer that can be inherited
Researchers say that there are a number of mutations that can be responsible for risk of inheritable cancer.
Breast cancer, prostate cancer, ovarian cancer, colorectal cancer as well as some other types of cancer may affect the forthcoming generations through heredity.
There are certain faulty genes that can increase the risk of cancer and can be passed from parent to child. When there is a fault in the genes of the sperm cell or in the egg, it increases the risk of cancer in the child.
These genes are called cancer susceptibility genes or inherited cancer genes.
What is a strong family history of cancer?
Strong family history means two or more close relatives on the same side of your family have had cancer. Another thing that adds to the risk is if both the sufferers have had the same type of cancer or may be a different type of cancer that was caused by the same gene fault.
In case, the cancer was developed when they were under the age of 50, you are more susceptible to the disease.
Here’s what you can do prevent inheriting cancer
Regular check-ups: Dr Julka advises that you must go for regular check-ups. This can help you identifiy cancer at an early stage, thereby making the treatment and recovery process more effective. If cancer runs in your family or if you have a strong family history of cancer, you must visit a doctor at least once in six months, depending on your health. Dr Julka mentions that cancer can even occur at an early age. He says that if you are susceptible to breast cancer and if you are in your 20s, regularly do a self-examination. If you’re in your 30s, clinical examination is recommended and for women who are in their 40s and above, they must go for a mammography test.
In case of BRCA mutations: BRCA1 and BRCA2 are human genes that help in creating tumour-suppressing proteins. If in case there is any mutation in these genes, they fail to produce these proteins and can't suppress the tumour. Inherited mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2 are noted to increase the risk of breast cancer and ovarian cancer. Also, prostate cancer, pancreatic cancer, peritoneal cancer and fallopian tube cancer are linked with BRCA mutations. “Some people opt for breast or ovary removal; it may cure cancer but it’s not a 100 per cent guaranteed treatment. If cancer runs in your family, especially where there are chances of BRCA mutations, contact your doctor at an early age,” says Dr Julka.
Lifestyle changes: Exercise regularly, avoid sedentary habits, avoid salty and junk foods and maintain a healthy weight. These are some of the lifestyle changes that help you prevent cancer if it runs in your family, says Dr Julka.
Awareness: Dr Julka says that awareness should be spread among people about cancer, its effects and preventive measures. He further adds that not all lumps are cancerous. They should be properly examined.