Do You Know about the Genetic Basis of Cancer?

16 April, 2021
Scientific advances in the knowledge of the genetic origins of cancer will likely lead to the development of new treatments and early detection methods. Along with this information, health education, and psychological support are necessary.

It’s important to know the genetic basis of cancer, even though this disease also depends on many others factors, including environmental, health, and lifestyle factors.

Scientific advances in the knowledge of the genetic basis of cancer will likely lead to the development of new treatments and early detection methods. This will make it easier to adapt treatments to the disease.

The evolution of genetic analysis methods and studies has given experts the keys that allow them to know exactly what genes are related to the risk of suffering from a certain type of cancer. The most notable discovery has been that of the BRCA1/BRCA2 gene associated with hereditary breast cancer.

How does cancer develop?

The set of diseases associated with cancer share a common origin, in which different alterations in cell repair mechanisms play a role. The occurrence and buildup of many different genetic alterations could favor the development of cancer cells. These malignant cells affect cell cycle control, facilitating the appearance of cancer.

Genetic information is obtained by the analysis of biological DNA samples. However, a change in the DNA sequence of a certain gene doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll develop cancer.

You can get a genetic test at any stage of your life and then compare your results to those of other relatives. This also allows you to assess your risk of suffering from a certain type of cancer.

A DNA strand.

What are the characteristics of hereditary cancer?

Today, experts have made progress with colon and breast cancer screening programs. However, having these screening programs isn’t enough. This is because it’s also necessary to make people aware of preventive measures.

To properly assess the characteristics of hereditary cancer, experts usually take certain variables into account, which are related to the patient themselves or their family members. If some of these variables appear in the person who got tested, the medical professional may believe that the cancer they suffer from is genetic.

Patient-related variables

  • The presence of several main tumors in the same organ or different organs.
  • Also, bilateral primary tumors.
  • Being diagnosed younger than the usual age.
  • Finally, tumors are related to congenital or birth defects or a hereditary precursor lesion.

Variables related to the patient’s family

  • Two or more first-degree relatives with rare tumors.
  • A first-degree relative with the same tumor or a related tumor.
  • Two or more first-degree relatives with tumors in the same area.
  • Three or more relatives in two generations with tumors in the same area.
  • Two or more first-degree relatives with tumors associated with a known family cancer syndrome.

You should also read: The Pan-Cancer Genomic Study: Spotting Tumors Before They Appear

What’s genetic counseling?

The goal of genetic counseling is to give both patients and their relatives pertinent information about the results of the genetic study.

The process consists of the following phases:

  1. Firstly, the study of both the patient’s and their relatives’ medical history.
  2. Gathering and analysis of genetic information.
  3. Then, reporting the results to the patient.
  4. Health education.
  5. Decision-making support, if necessary.
  6. Finally, the medical professional has to include a follow-up.

Getting a genetic study done gives you the option of adopting concrete measures to improve your health and prevent any disease. Also, another great advantage of a genetic study is that it allows the diagnosis of cancer in the earliest stages, thereby increasing the chances of being cured.

A cancer diagnosis.

Analysis of the genetic basis of cancer

The genetic analyses of cancer began with the study of families at high risk of this disease. In general, there were numerous cancer cases in these families. This is why experts started studying the genes that could be related to the disease.

Experts take factors such as the total number of family members, the number of members that provided a DNA sample, the age of onset of the disease, or the number of cases in the family into account in these analyzes. Another type of genetic analysis that experts can do is a genome-wide association study (GWAS).

This article may also interest you: How the Immune System Fights Cancer

Conclusion on the genetic basis of cancer

People who inherit a specific variant in their DNA have a genetic predisposition to developing a certain type of cancer. Today, it’s possible to detect these variants before cancer develops.

In short, the scientific responsibility of being able to identify the risk of cancer requires human commitment as well to accompany the process of those who decide to undergo genetic counseling.

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  • Binelfa, L. F., & García, J. C. S. (2005). Bases genéticas y moleculares del cáncer / 1a. parte Cancer: molecular and genetic basis. Gaceta Mexicana de Oncologia.

  • López, F., Álvarez, K., Wielandt, A., Pinto, E., & Kronberg, U. (2008). Bases genéticas del cáncer colorrectal hereditario. Condes.