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Is cancer hereditary? If so, how can you prevent it?
Question Date: 2016-08-31
Answer 1:

The answer is more complicated than just "yes" or "no", and most often it's really difficult to tell exactly where cancer comes from. If someone sunbathes for too long without any sunblock and gets a really bad burn, they are more likely to get skin cancer. But maybe they also have a bad diet. Or maybe they are overweight. All of these could increase the chance of getting cancer, and researchers call these lifestyle choices and habits that increase the chance of getting cancer "risk factors".

Some risk factors just can't be prevented. Age, for example, is a risk factor. People older than 55 years old make up the majority of new cancer patients. But you can't really change your age. Bad habits like poor diet, habitual smoking & drinking, and excessive tanning are other risk factors. These are risk factors that you can prevent. Someone who wants to live a healthy life can avoid smoking, maintain a healthy bodyweight, exercise often, drink alcohol responsibly, wear sunblock, and eat a balanced diet.

There are very few cancers that are linked to genetics. Most cancers are not hereditary. Some estimate that 5-10% (which is still very low) of cancers are inherited. Others say an even lower amount, maybe 2-3%, of new cancers diagnosed are passed down from family members.

Even if a family member does develop a cancer that is hereditary, other family members may not get it. It would increase the risk for those other family members, but it is just another risk factor. The best thing to do would be to talk to a medical professional. That person can look at family history, symptoms, and all of the other risk factors and can better decide what the next steps for that person should be. The doctor might suggest good lifestyle habits to develop or might schedule regular check-ups to catch the cancer in early stages. If you are just looking for more information, hopefully this got you on the right track. If you are worried about your own risks, it would be good to talk to a doctor about it. They will definitely have good advice.

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