Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"Are hereditary cancers more dangerous than other kinds?"
I know nothing is certain and all. I still want to know what to lok out for. How can I not get the cancer.
This is a very difficult question to answer because there are many different types of cancer out there and each of these has very different patterns of disease. In general, hereditary forms of cancer do behave differently than non-hereditary types. They tend to affect people earlier in life and in certain cases can be more aggressive, however this is far from being a hard and fast rule. There are several well recognized hereditary conditions that predispose people to cancers such as retinoblastoma, thyroid cancer, breast cancer, and colon cancer to name just a few. Most of the more well defined hereditary conditions involve mutation of a specific gene, such as RB in retinoblastoma, the APC gene in FAP (familial adenomatous polyposis, a condition that predisposes patients to colon cancer), or the BRCA genes in certain forms of genetically influenced breast cancer. However, what many people do not know is that in the vast majority of cancers there is either some minor genetic risk factor that can be passed down through families or some genetic mutation that has occurred during an individual's life within a single cell that leads to the formation of cancer. This is not to say, however, that nothing can be done to prevent cancer. The easiest thing to do is lead a healthy lifestyle: don't smoke, drink or use illicit drugs; eat right; and exercise frequently. The next easiest thing you can do is get regular medical care by a primary care doctor. Half the battle of preventing cancer is adequate screening with things such as breast exams, mammograms, colonoscopies, and even certain blood tests such as the PSA for prostate cancer. I recommend you go see a primary care physician to discuss this further. There is no substitute for consultation in person with a licensed physician, where you can discuss what your personal risk is for cancer and what screening and lifestyle changes may help you avoid this serious disease.
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