ZocdocAnswers"If there is a history of cancer in my family, does that mean I will definitely get it?"

Question

"If there is a history of cancer in my family, does that mean I will definitely get it?"

Both my dad and my grandpa had cancer, dad in his testicle, grandpa in his throat. Since they had cancer, does this mean that I will? Is it a 100% chance? I?m 18 now and don?t want to worry my whole life.

Answer

I am very sorry to hear that both your grandfather and your father had cancer. I am also sorry to hear that you are worrying that you are going to develop cancer. Cancer is a term that refers to the abnormal uncontrolled cell growth of some sort within the body. It is a very complex disease process, which is evidenced by the fact that there are no easy cures. There are many different theories about why and how cancers form. What is known is that for some reason either the factors that stimulate cell growth are abnormally high, or the factors that control cell death are low for some reason (or a combination of both of these). Cancer formation has many different contributing factors, and you are right that heredity (i.e. having a family history of cancer) does play a role. However there are numerous other contributing factors which cannot be taken out of the equation. For instance behavioral and environmental factors can play a very large role in cancer development. I don;t know anything about your grandfather, and am not implying anything about his behavior, but the largest causes of cancers in the head and neck are both smoking and drinking. This is not something that is heritable from a genetic standpoint. No one will ever be able to tell you for sure that you will not develop a cancer. (However no one can tell you that you will either). What I can tell you is that if you take good care of yourself, and decrease your risk factors, you can significantly decrease your chances of ever having to deal with a cancer. I would recommend making an appointment with your primary care physician to get a thorough physical exam, and to discuss how you can best take good care of yourself and decrease your risk factors. I don't think that you have to worry all your life. There are definitely things that you can control to help decrease your chances of developing a cancer. I hope that this information is helpful.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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