Month: June 2016

How Do Genetics Impact My Cancer Risk?

“Cancer is a genetic disease—that is, cancer is caused by certain changes to genes that control the way our cells function, especially how they grow and divide. These changes include mutations in the DNA that makes up our genes.” – National Cancer Institute.

In addition to the environmental cancer risk factors that we discussed previously, there are also genetic risk factors. Such factors are unfortunately not in our control as they are part of the genetic makeup. As you can see from the quote above, changes to our genes, such as mutations in the DNA of those genes, can increase the risk of cancer. But how do we get these mutations?


One way we get these mutations is family. Inherited genetic mutations play a major role in about five to ten percent of all cancers, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI).

Cancer-predisposing genetic changes are not the “inheritance” you hope for, but it is something that you can inherit from your parents if those genetic mutations were present in their reproductive cells. Such genetic changes are called germline changes and, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), these changes are present in every cell of the offspring. Therefore, if your parents had cancer-causing genetic mutations in their reproductive cells, every cell in your body would have the same genetic mutations.

While this may sound depressing, remember that these are technically “potential” cancer-causing genetic changes. While they increase the risk of developing cancer generally, the level of risk is different person to person. Having a cancer-predisposing mutation in the family is not a guarantee of cancer.


In addition to mutations that may be passed down from parent to child, cancer-causing mutations in the DNA may also be caused during a person’s lifetime as a result of exposure to carcinogens or errors in cell division. These “acquired” genetic changes are referred to as somatic changes and may arise at any time during a person’s life.

Genetic Testing & Early Detection

According to the American Cancer Society, “early detection of cancer through screening has been determined to reduce mortality from cancers of the colon and rectum, breast, uterine cervix, and lung.” But these screenings don’t tell you what level of cancer risk exists in your genetic code. Screenings, such as mammograms, are utilized to check for the presence of cancer itself. A screening may show that you are cancer-free at that moment, but will not give you the likelihood of developing cancer in the future. This is where genetic testing comes in.

If you have a family history of cancer, genetic testing can identify whether or not you carry known cancer-causing mutations. In fact, NCI asserts that “many experts recommend that genetic testing for cancer risk be considered when someone has a personal or family history that suggests an inherited cancer risk condition…” We do want to remind you, however, that the presence of such an inherited mutation does NOT mean you will absolutely develop cancer.

For more information about genetic testing for cancer risk or to get your own reveal23 testing kit, visit our website at

Come Back For The Finale

We have one more article in our cancer risk factor blog series. Visit again soon to read about the lifestyle cancer risk factors that you CAN control.

Understanding Environmental Cancer Risk Factors

Cancers figure among the leading causes of morbidity and mortality worldwide. According to the American Cancer Society, about 1,685,210 new cancer diagnoses are expected in 2016. Additionally, about 595,690 Americans are expected to die of cancer in 2016.

With numbers such as these, it is understandable to have concerns over one’s health and future. Being aware of the risk factors associated with cancers can help you take the necessary steps to safeguard your health and to help protect your future. However, it is important to note that not all risk factors are under your control.

Generally, there are three categories of cancer risk factors: Environment, Genetics, and Lifestyle. In this three-part blog series, we will be discussing each of these categories, starting with today’s article on environmental risk factors.

Environmental Risk Factors

According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI):

“Cancer is caused by changes to certain genes that alter the way our cells function. Some of these genetic changes occur naturally when DNA is replicated during the process of cell division. But others are the result of environmental exposures that damage DNA.”

One’s environment is the surroundings or conditions in which a person lives or operates. This environment is not so easily controlled. In order to change your environment, you would have to leave it, and picking up your entire life to reestablish it somewhere else isn’t a simple action. As such, environmental risk factors are generally not within your control, especially if you are not aware that you are being exposed to cancer-causing substances.

When carcinogens are in the air, water, food, or at the workplace, they are more difficult to avoid. In the United States, regulations have been put in place to reduce carcinogen exposure in the workplace, and continuing research is conducted analyzing the presence of carcinogens near schools and neighborhoods. Below is a list of known carcinogenic substances. For more detailed information about each one, visit


Aristolochic Acids








Coal Tar and Coal-Tar Pitch

Coke-Oven Emissions

Crystalline Silica (respirable size)


Ethylene Oxide


Hexavalent Chromium Compounds

Indoor Emissions from the Household Combustion of Coal

Mineral Oils: Untreated and Mildly Treated

Nickel Compounds


Secondhand Tobacco Smoke (Environmental Tobacco Smoke)


Strong Inorganic Acid Mists Containing Sulfuric Acid


Vinyl Chloride

Wood Dust

Carcinogen Exposure Does Not Mean Definite Cancer

It is important to understand that many other factors influence whether a person exposed to a carcinogen will actually develop cancer, including the duration and amount of the exposure as well as the person’s genetic background.

To learn more about how genetics play a role as a cancer risk factor, visit our blog next week!

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