If you know something about the science behind cancer, then you might also know that it’s a genetic disease. Cancer is the consequence of one or more mutations in the DNA that disrupts its sequence. The damage can result in a runaway cell division or growth.
Over the years, researchers have tried to find out the exact gene alterations that cause certain types of cancer. Since there are approximately 20,000 genes, it’s not very easy.
Fortunately, science has come very far and the experts have learned many things about the genetics of cancer.
Before getting on with cancer and genetics, it might be beneficial to take a look into what genetic testing means.
What Is DNA Testing?
Genetic testing is a test that looks into a person’s DNA. A home DNA test kit or genetic testing services can be used for a variety of different reasons. That’s why they look at a range of different things in the DNA.
In the case of cancer, the test will look for mutations or irregularities in the genetic material of a person. This can be very beneficial to identify risks, treatment procedures, and other cancer-related things.
Oncologists make use of new genetic tests to learn more about the person’s genes and make the treatment more targeted. As a result, drugs and therapies used to treat different forms of cancer can have a higher benefit. People also previously faced horrible side effects because the treatment was affecting healthy cells. However, thanks to genetic testing, side effects are felt to a much lesser extent or not felt at all.
What Type of DNA Testing Is Done For Cancer
When most people hear genes, they immediately think about all the inherited things because its common knowledge that everyone gets their DNA from their parents. But you need to understand that a genetic abnormality can form at any point in life, and not all of them pass on to that person’s children.
There are some genetically inherited cancers, such as the BRCA gene. The people with a family history of a particular kind may use genetic testing to find out if they can develop a certain type of cancer. That can then be used to take precautionary medical measures.
But considering that over 90% of cancers form by genetic mutations that are entirely spontaneous, a person’s family medical history can only be of very little help. The majority of the cancers arise because of environmental factors, age, and a person’s lifestyle, such as smoking tobacco cigarettes. These spontaneous mutations can still be found through genetic testing.
An important thing that many people need to understand is that if they have cancer or a tumor, then there isn’t a good chance of it passing on to their children. Meaning their kids may most likely be safe.
An Example of Inherited Cancerous Genes: BRCA1 and BRCA2
Some alterations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes were found to be associated with an incredibly high risk of breast cancer. The variations of these genes can also be passed on from a parent to their child, making breast cancer more common.
Every person has BRCA genes, and they usually function in the cells normally and fulfill their role in the cycle of life. However, the DNA, which includes these genes, can be damaged by a variety of reasons. The most prevalent might be random errors in the normal cell processes, exposure to UV light, or inhaling cigarette smoke.
Genes can be mutated quite often, but most of them show no effect at all. However, things are different when essential genes are mutated. Since these are necessary for controlling cell growth, the mutations can disrupt the entire process. As a result, the cells start to grow and divide uncontrollably.
Even with early detection of a tumor, it’s immensely challenging to stop cancer from spreading once it has started. Fortunately, genetic testing can help. It can be used to identify risks of cancer before the cells mutate beyond control.
Who Should Try DNA Testing For Cancer?
While anyone can go in for genetic testing to find out if they are at risk of developing a particular kind of cancer, a DNA test may be necessary for some people.
- All the first-degree relatives of the person with cancer, which means parents, siblings, and children
- All the relatives on the side of the family that have had a particular type of cancer
- A family member with more than a single kind of cancer
- Family members who developed cancer at a young age that was out of the ordinary
- A member of the family with a rare form of cancer, such as breast cancer in a male
- People linked to an ethnicity that is known for a particular type of cancer
Genetic testing for cancer, family medical history, and ancestry can be very beneficial in finding risks of future tumor developments.
Before You Do It
Before getting a DNA test, it might be useful to consult with a medical care provider or a genetic counselor. They can help you get a much better understanding of what you can expect from the test, and how you should react to the results if they don’t seem right.
It might also be incredibly beneficial to get an understanding of the pros and cons of genetic testing, as well as your options.
If you are thinking about ordering a home testing kit, make sure to find out what the things it can test for before purchasing it.