Is Pancreatic Cancer Genetic?
Cancer is caused by a change in your genetic sequence. Genes are responsible for designing your body. Any alteration at that level will alter your body patterns.
Cancer is an uncontrolled production of abnormal cells. Usually new cells are formed when your body needs them. For instance, while you are recovering from a wound, new skin cells are formed. Those cells die after some time. If you have cancer, your body will produce cells when you don’t need them, ones that don’t die. Those cells form a mass called tumor.
There are 2 types of genes: Oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes. Oncogeneshelp your body form new cells, grow, sustain and then divide to produce new cells. Tumor suppressor genes control the growth and formation of new cells. They also ensure the death of cells when needed.
Cancer results when tumor suppressor genes are subdued or oncogenes are stimulated. You have 2 copies of genes. One from your father and from your mother.
Cancer is more commonly seen in those who have a blood relative with cancer. If your father had cancer, it’s likely that genes which you inherit from your father carry cancer causing genes. If your mother does not have cancer, the rest of your genes don’t carry cancer. Hence, though you are at a higher risk, you may not get cancer, until your healthy genes are affected.
For an instance, you have a cell which has a mutant or genetically affected copy of pancreatic cancer, but your other copy of genes of that particular cell may be intact. If somehow due to environmental factors such as smoking, that copy also gets mutated, you have the pancreatic cancer causing cell. That will eventually form a tumor.
Another cause for pancreatic cancer is mistakes that occur while cells multiply. Genes are copied while cells multiply. This process is designed well, but is not perfect. Mistakes do happen at times, by which a cancer causing cell may be formed.
5 to 10% of people who have pancreatic cancer have a blood relative with the same affliction. The most common faulty genes that cause pancreatic cancer are BRCA2 genes. Pancreatic cancer that runs in families is called as familial pancreatic cancer. Familial pancreatic cancer includes any of the following:
- A family which has a family cancer syndrome and has at least one person affected by pancreatic cancer
- 2 or more blood relatives with pancreatic cancer
- 3 or more relatives who are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer on the same side of the family
You can get certain tests done to find out if you are genetically at risk. If you are carrying cancer genes, which put you at higher risk, you can get tests done to find out if you have cancer. Early diagnosis will help your doctor treat you well.
But before you decide to get yourself tested, check with those who are experts in genetics such as geneticists. They can help you understand what these tests can detect, what they can’t detect, and how to interpret results.