The practical significance of family history of cancer: cancer prevention

The Practical Significance of Family Cancer History: Cancer Prevention If someone in the family has cancer, there are many things that can be done to identify potential risks and control it before the disease worsens.

Focus on family history is the first line of defense against cancer. Knowing the cancer history of both parents’ families can more accurately screen for certain cancers and prevent or control them at an early stage.

In addition, even if you have cancer, genetic information may provide clues for doctors to choose targeted treatments.

Not a family, not into a family

The family history of cancer should include first-degree relatives—father, mother, and siblings, second-degree relatives (if needed)– , , uncle, , grandparents, grandparents. Pay attention to the type of cancer they are suffering from, the age at diagnosis, the age and cause of death.

First-degree relatives are the most critical. This is because you have 50% of the DNA with them. Although the genetic susceptibility of cancer is not certain to cause cancer, there is a higher risk.

Lifestyle and environmental factors also play a role in cancer risk assessment. For example, if your father died of lung cancer at the age of 80 and smoked for life, the genetic trait does not reflect the probability of cancer.

If you can confirm that there is some genetic cancer in your family, there may be a risk of other related cancers. For example, 3% of colon cancer patients also suffer from Lynch syndrome, a genetic disorder that increases the risk of stomach, kidney, bladder, skin and uterine cancer (female).

Of course, getting a family history is sometimes not easy, because some family members are alienated or unwilling to tell their cancer history. The death of the elders will also add to the difficulty of obtaining a family history. Even if the family cancer history cannot be completely collected, any medical history information that can be provided to the doctor is useful. For example, whether a family member dies from other causes and the age at which the diagnosis or death is made, this information helps to establish a family history file.


Who is diagnosed with cancer in the family, affects not only you but also your child. For example, if a mother dies from breast or ovarian cancer, sometimes due to mutations in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene, men may not have to worry about themselves because these are feminine-specific cancers, but perhaps he has inherited a disease associated with aggressive prostate cancer. mutation.

In other words, even if a man does not have cancer, it is still possible to pass the mutated gene to the next generation, the daughter, which increases her risk of developing breast or ovarian cancer. In fact, a 2011 study found that 24% of women with ovarian cancer have potential mutations.

This is why it is so important to collect detailed disease history as much as possible. This is not only for you, but also for the benefit of your children and grandchildren.

Gene detection

Understanding the family history of cancer is only the first step. Genetic testing can help to understand if there are mutations in one or more specific genes.

Gene testing involves finding a genetic counselor or other expert to assess family history and interpreting the risks and outcomes of the test, such as counseling anxiety caused by uncertainty conclusions, or having genetic mutations that require further cancer surveillance. A simple blood or saliva sample can detect cancer-associated mutations in several genes, usually in about 4 weeks.

Cancers, like some relatives, can always come to visit unexpectedly—some people may have been diagnosed with cancer in their later years. So don’t think that you don’t have cancer at an age, and you won’t get cancer in the future.

To learn about family history and talk to your doctor about potential risks and prevention strategies.

Compile: (Lu Yang, Spring); Review: Xia Jian