Is Cancer Genetic? Here’s What Science Says

In the United States, doctors diagnose about 1.8 million people with cancer each year. And about 600,000 Americans die of the disease every year.

Cancer is one of the most deadly, commonplace medical conditions our society continues to grapple with. So naturally, you may want to know what your chances are of getting cancer in your lifetime—and whether any of it is predestined.

So, is cancer genetic? The answer is more complicated than a simple “yes” or “no.” Here’s more information about cancer genetics.

Is Cancer Genetic? Look at Genetic Mutations

This much we can say with certainty: Your genetics could play a role in how susceptible you are to certain kinds of cancers.

This is because medical researchers have identified certain genetic mutations that can increase your risk of specific types of cancer. And, parents pass on these genetic mutations to their children.

For example, the BRCA1 and BRCA2 (pronounced “bracka” one and two), genetic mutations increase the likelihood that a person will develop breast cancer. Cowden syndrome—a certain mutation of the PTEN gene—makes it more likely that someone will develop uterine, thyroid, or breast cancer.

There are other genetic mutations that are linked to brain tumors, skin cancer, kidney cancer, and more. If one or both of your parents have or had cancer, you ought to speak with your doctor about whether it may be genetic, and what your prevention options are.

And if you’re worried about how hereditary cancer will affect your health insurance, you can read on here more about this topic.

Not All Cancers Are Genetic

As we’ve already noted, some cancers are linked to hereditary gene mutations. But this isn’t the case for all cancers—in fact, it’s estimated that just five to ten percent of all cancer diagnoses are connected to genetics.

So while genetics is one important factor to consider, it’s hardly the only concern when it comes to cancer prevention.

Your surrounding environment can also be a main causal factor of cancer. For example, the state of California has a law that requires all products and buildings that include cancer-causing chemicals to be clearly labeled. And fans of the film Erin Brockovich should know that cancer can also be caused by harmful chemicals leaking into a community’s water supply.

You might not be able to completely control your environment—but there are also personal choices you can make that increase or decrease your cancer risk. Smoking cigarettes, for example, notably causes lung, throat, and mouth cancer. Excessive alcohol consumption, meanwhile, can lead to cancer in the larynx, colon, or kidneys.

Knowledge Is Power

Is cancer genetic? Not all cancers are hereditary—but some definitely are linked to genetic mutations, and it’s worth knowing what your hereditary cancer risk may be. When it comes to managing your health, knowledge is power, so talk to your doctor about your concerns at your next medical appointment.

If you found this article helpful, feel free to check out some of the other health-related posts on our site.