DNA strand with cancer gene
October 20, 2017 | by F. Ames Smith Jr. MD, FACS

Cancers develop because of changes in DNA

Most cancers occur because of sporadic (not inherited) mutations in cells that lead to uncontrolled growth of an abnormal cell population. A number of risk factors can contribute to the formation of these mutations such as smoking, excessive alcohol intake, obesity, environmental carcinogens, as well as other causes.

Inherited mutations can markedly increase cancer risk

Only about 5 to 10% of DNA mutations can be passed from one generation to the next. Although uncommon, these inherited mutations are significant, because they may lead to very high risk for cancers at multiple different sites. For instance, a harmful mutation in the BRCA gene can lead to high risk for breast, ovarian, pancreatic, and prostate cancer as well as melanoma. A harmful mutation in the genes associated with Lynch syndrome can lead to high risk for colon and uterine cancer as well as increased risk for ovarian and stomach cancer among others.

Better screening helps prevent some cancers or identify them earlier

The good news is that we are able to increase surveillance and in many cases lower a patient’s risk for developing cancer if we detect these mutations. At The Polyclinic’s Hereditary Cancer Risk Clinic, our focus is to screen for and diagnose these conditions and to provide specific care plans to facilitate prevention or otherwise to detect cancer early.

A brief survey can help you decide on further testing

To determine if you should consider hereditary cancer risk screening, fill out a brief survey, Risk Assessment for Hereditary Cancer, here, or call our office at 206.860.5586 for more information.