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How do genetic changes lead to cancer?

How do genetic changes lead to cancer?

reditary cancerA cell must typically contain six or more faults to become cancerous. Such faults can cause the cell to stop functioning normally, become cancerous, and grow and divide uncontrollably.

This may happen as people get older as a result of random mistakes when a cell is dividing. Changes can also occur due to exposure to substances that can cause cancer called carcinogens. These include cigarette smoke or sunlight.

Though potentially cancerous, these gene changes don't affect all body cells, are not inherited, and cannot be passed on to children.

Cancer is such a common disease that many families have several members who have had cancer. Certain types of cancer seem to run in some families, but only a small portion of all cancers are inherited.

How is cancer risk passed on?

Faulty genes that increase the risk of cancer can be passed on from parent to child. Such genes are called inherited cancer genes. They occur when there is a mistake or a fault in the genes contained in an egg or sperm cell.

Genes that increase the risk of cancer are known as cancer susceptibility genes. Their normal job is to correct DNA damage that naturally occurs when cells divide, protecting people against cancer.

Inheriting a faulty copy of one these genes means that it is unable to repair damaged DNA in cells. As a consequence, the cells may become cancerous.

People inherit genes from both parents. If a gene fault occurs in each parent, a child has a 1 in 2 chance of inheriting it. While some children will have the faulty gene and an increased risk of developing cancer, others won't.

What forms of cancer are hereditary?

Cancers caused by inherited faulty genes are much less common than cancers caused by gene changes due to aging or other factors.

Most cancers develop through a combination of chance and the environment rather than inheriting a specific cancer gene. However, about 5 to 10 percent of all cancer cases occur in people who have inherited genetic mutations that raise the risk of cancer.

Mutations and syndromes that can increase the risk of cancer include:

  • BRCA1 and BRCA2 genetic mutations - raised risk of breast, ovarian, and prostate cancer
  • Cowden syndrome - raised risk of developing breast, uterine, and thyroid cancer
  • Familial adenomatous polyposis - raised risk of colorectal cancer, and soft tissue and brain tumors
  • Li-Fraumeni syndrome - raised risk of developing many different types of cancer
  • Lynch syndrome - raised risk of colorectal cancer, some skin cancers, and brain tumors
  • Multiple endocrine neoplasia - raised risk of endocrine cancers
  • Von Hippel-Lindau disease - raised risk of kidney and other cancers


Date: 10/2/2016
Source :


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