by Tammi Noonan, DNP, ARNP, Medical Associates
Throughout years of research, we have learned that all cancer is caused by harmful changes in a person’s genes, known as mutations. Often, these mutations are sporadic, meaning the mutation happens by chance. Mutations can be passed down through our family, which could mean the mutation is hereditary. People with hereditary cancer are more than likely to have relatives with the same type or other related types of cancer. Hereditary mutations can mean a person is at risk for developing more than one cancer, and at an earlier than average age.
Similarly, cancers can be familial, meaning they are caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. People with familial cancer may have one or more relatives with the same type of cancer; however, there does not appear to be a specific mutation increasing the cancer risk in the family.
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