What per­cent­age of can­cers are hered­i­tary in na­ture?

India Today - - CANCER PROJECT -

“There are two cat­e­gories. The first is fa­mil­ial or can­cer run­ning in the fam­ily—gene flaws that can be trans­ferred from one gen­er­a­tion to an­other. About 10 per cent peo­ple be­long to this. The other is when fam­ily mem­bers have can­cer, but there is no ge­netic in­her­i­tance in­volved. It could be be­cause a fam­ily is liv­ing in a coal mine area or near farms that are al­ways full of in­sec­ti­cides and chem­i­cal fer­tilis­ers. Such fam­i­lies are ex­posed to so much en­vi­ron­men­tal pol­lu­tants that they end up de­vel­op­ing can­cer. An­other 10 per cent get this. Can­cer does not de­velop in a day. It’s a com­pli­cated process that takes time. Your stress lev­els, your body physique (tall peo­ple are at slightly greater risk as they have more cells in their body in which dan­ger­ous mu­ta­tions can oc­cur), if you are obese, if you are a red meat eater, if you don’t take plenty of fi­bres and veg­eta­bles—all these fac­tors play a sig­nif­i­cant role. Can­cers of the bowel, breast, ovaries, colon-rec­tum, kid­ney, skin (melanoma), pan­creas, prostate, eye (retinoblas­toma) and thy­roid are some that have a ge­netic com­po­nent. It is pos­si­ble to get ge­netic tests done to check if you are car­ry­ing any risk in your genes. How­ever, I have seen peo­ple with a strong ge­netic his­tory of can­cer not get­ting the dis­ease, even at age 70, be­cause they lead a very healthy life­style.”

DR AMIT VERMA, Molec­u­lar on­col­o­gist and can­cer ge­neti­cist, Max Can­cer Care, Delhi

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