Has your grandmother, mother, aunt or sister had breast or ovarian cancer? Has your grandfather, father or uncle had prostate, breast or pancreatic cancer? Is there a history in your family of colon cancer, diabetes or high cholesterol?
If any of these scenarios resonate within your family, you could also be at risk.
Many hereditary health conditions follow patterns within families, with sometimes as high as a 50% likelihood that if one parent possesses a mutated gene, their child will inherit it. Recent Mayo Clinic research shows that inherited, faulty genes cause more than 10% of all cancers.
"The biggest advice I would give is that if you are with your family this Thanksgiving, spend a few moments to share some of that family health history information. And if a red flag goes up, report that to your doctor. It could actually save someone's life," says John Presutti, D.O., a Mayo Clinic family medicine physician and a researcher at the Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine.
Dr. Presutti has integrated genomics into his everyday medical decision-making for his patients, realizing the potential for improving health outcomes.
"If I can help identify patients at high risk for cancer and other diseases, then I can help get them started on screening earlier and avoid the situation of metastatic cancer and early cancer deaths," he says.
Equally important to the discovery of a person's inherited cancer mutation is the potential for them to share the heritable cause of their disease with their blood relatives, allowing family members to pursue care for earlier disease detection and cancer management.
"The power of genetics is that we can potentially foresee the cancer that will develop in other family members," says Niloy Jewel Samadder, M.D., a Mayo Clinic gastroenterologist and cancer geneticist. "This can allow us to target cancer screening to those high-risk individuals and hopefully prevent cancer altogether in the next generation of the family."
Dr. Samadder emphasizes that knowing your family health history can help you, but only if you act on it.
If you have a family health history of disease, here are some steps to take:
Three sisters from Minnesota — Chris, Cindy and Carrie — recently learned they share a genetic mutation known to significantly increase the risk for breast and ovarian cancer. Their BRCA1 variants came to light through a Center for Individualized Medicine's DNA sequencing research study. Read more.
Alejandro Mirazo never imagined his genetic test results would reveal a hereditary link to cancer, or that his findings would potentially save his life. His genetic test results revealed he has Lynch syndrome, an inherited condition that raises a person's lifetime risk of developing colon, uterine, stomach, small bowel, kidney and other cancers. Read more.
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Tags: biomedical research, cancer, center for individualized medicine, Genetics, genomic medicine, Lynch syndrome, medical research, Multi-omics, ovarian cancer, population genomics, Precision Medicine, Research