Cancer is a scary word. But when you know all the facts, knowledge and understanding can reduce the fear. Find out everything you need to know about cancer and its effects...

Hereditary Cancer

Nature Versus Nurture

Also known as cancer syndrome, hereditary cancer is the least common form of the disease that is known as the silent killer. Only between five and ten percent of cases of this disease are inherited. The rest of the reported cases are instigated by factors such as smoking cigarettes, hormones and exposure to radiation and chemicals, to name but a few. These factors cause genes to mutate over the course of time and are known as sporadic or somatic mutations. The rate of mutation speeds up, or proliferates, as people get older, hence the increase in diagnoses of the disease amongst the older age groups.

When It Runs In The Family

There is a one in two chance that a mutated gene for hereditary cancer will be passed from parent to offspring. The relaying of the mutant gene can be by either parent, and will be replicated on the DNA of every single cell in the child's body, either through the egg or the sperm sex cell after fertilization. This genetic abnormality does not need to be present in both parent's genetics, it only takes one incidence of the mutant gene in one of the parents for the disease to stand the chance of being passed on.

Risk Factors For Hereditary Cancer

Just because one particular type of the disease has afflicted more than one family member does not mean that it is hereditary cancer which is present in the family genealogy. In many cases, this can simply be because the members were exposed to the same toxin, such as radiation. It is when the diagnosis is made in first degree relatives, that the chances of it affecting your heredity are more likely.

There are specific and unusual traits that need to be investigated before this diagnosis can be made. Some of these include

• Rare types of the disease. There are more than two hundred different types of the disease that have been recorded. The most common types include the disease prevalence in the breasts, ovaries, prostate and bowels. A rare type would occur in an organ such as the kidneys.

• Young people being afflicted. The most common incidences of this disease tend to occur in older age groups. When the patient is under the age of thirty, alarm bells for hereditary cancer should be ringing.

• More than one kind in one person. When several parts of the body are affected at once the likelihood of hereditary cancer increases.

• Paired organs are affected. If the disease is diagnosed in both parts of a paired organ, such as the eyes or ears, the case should be investigated further for hereditary cancer.

Conditions Caused By Inherent Mutations

There are specific forms of the disease that are types of hereditary cancer. The most commonly diagnosed of these include

• An inherent form of breast and ovarian cancer syndrome (HBOC)

• Non polyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC) and familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP), which are both forms of bowel cancer

• Cowden Syndrome

• Peutz Jeghers Syndrome