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Cancer – Genetics

February 27, 2021


“So we all know that there are families where cancer is much more prevalent. Basically we say that cancer runs in those families, and we know that there’s a hereditary component that’s passed from one generation to another, and there must be some mutations that are traveling from parents to their children. It’s obviously a concern to everyone, obviously the children themselves are very concerned and want to know what they can do to limit their risk of developing the cancer that may have either, you know, caused morbidity or killed their parents. So there are three different areas where I think patients should really focus and individuals can focus on trying to manage their own risk and hopefully reduce it through these choices. The first one is probably the biggest one overall, and that is lifestyle choices. So if you take a step back and examine the multi-head hypothesis of cancer, where we say that there are usually several different mutations that have combined on the road to developing a particular tumor. You know that engaging in behaviors and lifestyle choices that increase your likelihood of new somatic tissue mutations increase your exposure or your likelihood of an underlying mutation turning into a cancer.

So take patients who have colorectal cancer and through lifestyle choices and drinking alcohol and smoking and so on, they’re increasing the likelihood that they have additional mutations that encompass it in combination with the ones that they were dealt as part of inheritance from their parents, are much more likely to develop a tumor. So really trying to manage those factors and think about the things, exposures, that will lead to higher cancer risk overall, is something that everybody who has cancer that runs in their family should think deeply about. And those are nutritional factors, not only diet, but I also include under nutrition that alcohol consumption and smoking, those are very important known risk factors for cancer development. And then the second big category that you have to make sure that if cancer runs in your family, you really attack head-on, is get your cancer screening on time.

Now, the simplistic thing is to go see your doctor and follow the recommended screening. But you, as the individual, also have to keep up with your cancer screening, and that may be mammograms for breast cancer, it can be colonoscopies for colon cancer. It can be prostate cancer screening as well, depending on your risk profile and what the family history is. All of those things are areas where you have to make sure that you’re advocating for yourself and getting screening done. And the third one is the one that for some people will feel most ambiguous, but it’s also the area where I think people can make perhaps the most difference. Cause the other two are a little mechanical. They’re, you know, make the choices that are going to reduce your risk and go get your cancer screening. And this is the one that everyone who’s worried about cancer has to really think about.

And that’s how to reduce the likelihood that you’re not getting enough sleep, and you’re experiencing too much stress. Because those factors, while you could put them in the first category of lifestyle, are ongoing things. It’s not just what you eat. It’s not, you know, only how much sleep you get. It’s making sure that you’re trying to optimize it and give your body a chance to restore it. Cause remember, there are mutations happening in our bodies virtually every day. And your body has a way of being able to find those mutations and essentially clean out those cells. Anytime that we allow our body’s immune system to decrease its function, its functional status, then we increase the risk of cancer. And that’s true for everyone, but particularly important in people who are really worried about cancer.”

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