DNA and Cancer Risk

According to the National cancer Institute: “Cancer is a genetic disease-that is, cancer is caused by certain changes to genes that control the way our cells function, especially how they grow and divide. These changes include mutations in the DNA that makes up our genes.” As this quote claims, changes to our genes, such as mutations in the DNA, can increase the risk of cancer. These changes are either Inherited or Acquired.Inherited Gene MutationsIf someone in your family has cancer, does that mean you will get it? Not necessarily, but if there is a history of cancer in your family, it may point to DNA. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) states that inherited genetic mutations play a major role in about five to ten percent of all cancers.You can inherit cancer-predisposing genetic mutations from your parents if those genetic mutations were present in their reproductive cells. Such genetic changes are called germline changes and, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), these changes are present in every cell of the offspring. Therefore, if your parents had cancer-causing genetic mutations in their reproductive cells, every cell in your body would have the same genetic mutations.It is worth noting, however, that these are “potential” cancer-causing genetic changes. These mutated genes are NOT a guarantee of cancer. While they GENERALLY increase the risk of developing it, the level of risk is different person to person.Acquired Gene MutationsIn addition to mutations that may be passed down from parent to child, cancer-causing mutations in the DNA may also be caused during a person’s lifetime as a result of errors in cell division or exposure to carcinogens. These “acquired” genetic changes may arise at any time during a person’s life.Benefits of Genetic Testing & Importance of Early DetectionAccording to the American Cancer Society, “early detection of cancer through screening has been determined to reduce mortality from cancers of the colon and rectum, breast, uterine cervix, and lung.”Screenings, such as mammograms, are used to check for the presence of cancer but do not determine a person’s level of risk for potentially developing cancer in the future. If you have a family history of cancer, genetic testing can identify whether or not you carry known cancer-causing mutations. In fact, NCI asserts that “many experts recommend that genetic testing for cancer risk be considered when someone has a personal or family history that suggests an inherited cancer risk condition… ”

The Basics About Kidney Cancer

Kidney cancer is one of the types of cancers that are not very common. It only compromises about 2% of the types of cancers being diagnosed yearly. There are several types of cancer that are known to affect the kidneys. The most frequently occurring type of kidney cancer is a form of renal cell carcinoma, known as renal adenocarcinoma or renal hypernephroma. It’s believed to compromise 9 out of 10 kidney cancer cases. Other types of kidney cancer are the transitional cell carcinoma, renal sarcoma and Wilms tumor. Wilms’ tumor can be common on children with kidney cancer. And like most cancers, when kidney cancer becomes malignant, it metastasizes into the nearby lymph nodes and to other areas of the body.The exact risk factors that predispose an individual to kidney cancer is not totally known. However, several factors are being considered. One is smoking. Smoking is thought to increase the risk of acquiring cancer because of its toxic byproducts like tar and nicotine. Obesity is another factor being looked upon because it may cause an increase in the blood pressure of the individual. This increase will result to kidney damage since they kidneys are the ones that directly filter the waste products on the blood. Genetics can also be a factor and so as exposure to carcinogens. Persons with Von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) Syndrome can also increase the risk for kidney cancer. VHL is a type of genetic disorder that causes tumors to grow on different areas of the body. Whether a smoker is at risk for developing kidney cancer or not, it is important that he or she should quit smoking because smoking is associated with so many diseases. And the same goes for obesity, that is why maintaining a healthy weight is very important.There are no definite signs and symptoms for cancer of the kidneys, and unfortunately, most cases of kidney cancer are diagnosed in the later stages of the disease. There are times when they can also be discovered early, but mostly in an accidental basis. The common signs and symptoms that may occur are flank or back pain, blood in the urine and an abdominal mass. But since these are common signs and symptoms of other diseases, diagnosis is still very difficult.The diagnostic tools used for cancer of the kidneys is similar to those being used with other cancers. X-rays, ultrasound imaging, computerized tomography scans and magnetic resonance imaging are some of the tools that are used to look for the cancer. An intravenous pyelogram is also sometimes used as a diagnostic tool. Blood tests and urine exams can also be used to augment the diagnostic tools. Fine needle aspiration biopsy is done after the preliminary diagnostics are done. This will yield results that can determine if the cancer is truly present or not.And like most cancers, cancer of the kidneys can be diagnosed in 4 stages. Stage I is the earliest stage of the cancer. The tumor’s size is only about 7 cm or less. Metastasis has not yet started and the average tumor size is approximately that of a tennis ball. Stage II has a bigger tumor, approximately 8-9cm or more and still mo metastasis. Stage III has a bit of seeding on the lymph nodes, nearby tissue or the nearby blood vessel. And the last stage, stage IV has the tumor metastasize beyond the surrounding tissue, lymphatic system and/or nearby organs. This is the most common stage wherein kidney cancer is discovered. Although there are available treatment modalities for those who have late stage cancer of the kidneys, it is imperative that a second opinion must be sought. This is done to confirm the diagnosis of the disease so that proper treatment can be started with the patient.