Cancer Support: (5) Your Personal Genetic Risk


Personal Genetic Risk to Cancer

When it comes to cancer, it’s also helpful to consider your personal and family health history.

This can help influence your approach to either lowering your cancer risk, seeking support for a diagnosis, as well as putting in place future preventative measures.

Genetic Predisposition

Genetic vulnerabilities are a big focus of the research around cancer. Many people are increasingly seeking tests to establish their risk.

Whilst there are some well-known stats around certain gene mutations (changes) these tend to be less common in the general population.

The Breast Cancer Gene known as BRCA is one frequently tested to determine if mutations are present in genes BRCA1 or BRCA2.

These variants indicate an increased risk of breast cancer in BOTH men and women and ovarian cancer in women. They also increase the risk of fallopian tube, peritoneal, pancreatic and prostate cancer compared to those who do not carry the mutation.

It is essential to highlight this is only a greater risk than someone who does not have the gene mutation. As it’s difficult to quantify an individual’s risk of cancer in the first place, quantifying the additive risk of these mutations is also difficult.

Whilst many women understandably opt for prophylactic mastectomy, hysterectomy and oophorectomy (risk-reducing removal of breasts, uterus or ovaries). There is still, fallopian (unless also removed with a hysterectomy/oophorectomy), peritoneal and pancreatic cancer risk.

There’s also much discussion about the impact of surgery and resulting complications and hormonal changes. Preventative surgery is ultimately a personal decision that must be researched considerably.

Benefit Of Genetic Risk Information

It’s important to understand that gene variations are also NOT indicative of a definite outcome.

They are commonly described as a loaded gun, however, something else will pull the trigger. This interpretation is helpful as it emphasises how imperative it is to consider the environment your genes are bathed in.

The environment will be the catalyst for the activation of processes linked to cancer and other chronic, inflammatory diseases.

From this perspective, one of the best ways to use this genetic information might be to help you decide your approach to the things associated with an increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer, including alcohol intake, weight management and hormone therapies.

Other Genetic Considerations: SNP’s

Alongside some of the established gene mutations, there are more common genetic variations that influence processes like detoxification and immune function.

This is the reason some individuals are more susceptible to DNA damage from pesticides, burnt foods, smoking and alcohol consumption.

These more common gene mutations are called Single Nucleotide Genetic Polymorphisms or SNP’s and there are multiple types. These SNP’s can also create a raised need for micronutrients like vitamin D, folate, B12, B6, Molybdenum and more.

A big takeaway from the information that is gathering around these gene SNP’s is the importance of a nutrient-dense diet to minimise the chance of micronutrient deficiencies.

Tests are available to establish which ones you have, however, before you head down this rabbit hole it’s important to remember these don’t provide any information about your current health status.

Your body could be coping optimally and a test informing you of your reduced detox capacity may simply generate health anxiety.

Blood, urine, stool and swabs tests are the only means of establishing what’s going on in your body.

If you do wish to undertake any tests to assess your health do so under the guidance of a trained Nutritional Therapist. I frequently liaise with GP’s and direct my clients towards helpful tests to evaluate metabolic function, hormone balance and gut microbiome health.

An Important Role For DNA  

The greatest genetic influence on cancer is persistent DNA damage.

Repeated assaults on our DNA causes oncological gene activity to be turned up and many protective gene processes are turned down. This allows cellular carcinogenesis (malignancy) to begin occurring.

Multiple factors damage our DNA and the situation is worsened when the immune system is compromised or is lacking supportive factors.

What Damages Your DNA?

All the factors are detailed in our earlier blog in this series Cancer Support: Diet Debates Around Cancer

Next week I am looking at how your own health history can factor in your cancer risk, plus the influence it can have on your emotional and social health and on your personality.

To make sure you don’t miss out on the cancer series, sign up to our email list here.