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What is Hereditary Cancer?

The need for awareness about Hereditary Cancer

Hereditary cancer is one of the most manageable types of cancer. By raising awareness about Hereditary cancer through fundraising campaigns such as Jeans For Genes, we hope to enlighten people and their families that a lot can be done to manage and reduce their risk for cancer.

What causes Cancer?

Cancer occurs when cells in our body grow and divide uncontrollably, resulting in the formation of tumours.

Most cancers are sporadic, which occurs randomly by chance due to a combination of various factors. Age and environmental reasons are usually the biggest driving factors for sporadic cancer.

Cancer can also be caused by a combination of environmental / lifestyle and genetic factors. This is what we term familial cancer.

In 5-10% of cases, cancer can be due to a hereditary cause. This is caused by errors/faults in genes which are supposed to protect our bodies from developing cancer.

What Are Genes?

Genes are the instructions that our body reads to carry out different functions. Some genes determine your traits and features, such as your hair and eye colour. Other genes protect us from certain diseases such as cancer. Our bodies contain over 20,000 genes.

Since we inherit our genes from our parents, we tend to share similar traits with our family members. We may also be at increased risk for similar diseases to our family members.

Sometimes faults or spelling errors can occur in these genes which disrupt their normal function. It is possible for people to be born with these gene faults as they have inherited them from a parent.

What causes Hereditary Cancer?

A parent with a gene fault has a 50% chance of passing it down to his/her children. Children who inherit the gene fault in turn have a risk to pass this on to their children (i.e. the next generation). Other family members (i.e. siblings, parents, aunts, uncles, cousins) also have a chance to have inherited this gene fault.

Individuals and families who have a gene fault in a cancer protection gene often have a family history of cancer. This is what we call Hereditary Cancer.

Could my family history be due to a hereditary cause?

There are some clues which may raise the suspicion for a hereditary cause for cancer. These include:

Discussing this history with a doctor is important in order to determine if a referral to a genetics service is necessary. If you would like to learn more about hereditary cancer, please contact the Cancer Genetics Service at the National Cancer Centre Singapore (+65 6436 8000) and request to speak to a genetic counsellor.

Cancer Genetic Assessment

Genetic testing through a once-off blood test can help to inform if a hereditary cause for cancer exists in a family and which other family members may be at risk. Testing can help to provide personalized management to individuals and their families to help manage and prevent their cancer risks.

The role of Genetic Testing in Hereditary Cancer

The role of genetic testing is to clarify if a hereditary cause for cancer exists in a family and which family members have inherited the gene fault and are at risk. There are many benefits to what the results of genetic testing can bring:

Genetic testing allows us to practice personalized and preventive medical care. Genetic testing can help guide management to reduce, prevent or better treat cancers.

While not everyone who inherits the gene fault will develop cancer, it is still important that individuals at risk discuss their personalised risk-management strategies with a healthcare provider.

Did you know that you can make a difference in the fight against cancer?

Come celebrate Jeans For Genes Day with us on 25 April. Make a donation. Snap, post and share using the hashtag #J4GSG.

With you joining to fundraise and raise awareness about hereditary cancers, we can support more individuals who may benefit from the necessary testing/screenings that can improve their quality of life, ultimately saving lives.

About Jeans For Genes