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Colon Cancer Genes: An Unwanted Family Legacy

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Colon cancer is generally the result of irregularities affecting people on an individual basis. There is a 5-10% chance of colon cancer genes being passed down through the generations. However, those cancer genes may or may not present themselves, depending on the individual’s body state.
  • Those with more than two first-degree relatives who have suffered from cancer or those with one first-degree relative diagnosed with cancer under the age of 50, should consult a doctor to undergo a colonoscopy before they reach 50 years of age.
  • Colon cancer often is only identified once it has reached a late stage or once the cancer has spread to the extent that managing the disease is no longer possible.

 

All of us have mutated genes.

Our bodies are made up of billions of individual cells. These cells evolve over time to take on different responsibilities, depending on the genetic code found in each of them. Also known as genetic code, or “genes”, they transfer from parents to their offspring, and may present themselves in various external and internal forms. Externally, it could show in our facial shape, appearance, or hair color and smile. Additionally, genes could pass on internally in many forms such as our response to medication, response to diet as well as levels of risk regarding diseases like cancer.

Environmental changes and toxins are all around us, including congenital irregularities affecting the genetic code. All have the potential to stimulate genetic mutation without warning, and on a daily basis. If the body does not have enough antioxidants to fight the mutation or if the body’s gene repair and management system fails to find a solution for the mutation, it could eventually lead to the development of cancer.

There are around 500 genes associated with cancer, from a total of over 20,000 genes altogether. We can categorize these genes into the two following groups:

  • Oncogenes: Genes responsible for stimulating growth and dividing to the extent that they become uncontrollable.
  • Tumor suppressor genes: Regular genes which help repair damaged DNA and inhibit cell proliferation. If tumor suppressor genes mutate or abnormalities occur, it could eventually lead to the development of cancer.

Who is at risk of colon cancer?

  • Firstly, anyone who has behavioral habits or life situations that increase the risk of cancer. This includes experiencing frequent bouts of constipation, not eating enough vegetables and regularly consuming chargrilled foods. In addition, drinking alcohol, smoking, suffering from chronic stress or being over the age of 50 years also all add to the risks. 
  • Secondly, people with more than two first-degree relatives who suffered from cancers such as colon, breast, ovarian, lung or anal cancer. Even those who have one first-degree relative diagnosed with cancer under the age of 50 has higher risks. 
  • And, members of the general population who have a family member that has been diagnosed with hereditary cancer.

Thus, doctors advise everyone in these categories to undergo colon cancer screening with the NBI technique developed in Japan. Doctors have found that this technique has double the accuracy rate. Click to read more

Precision medicine can help prevent and predict colon cancer in the following two ways:

  • Cases where a person’s first-degree relative has suffered from colon cancer

In such cases, the person’s risk of also developing colon cancer will be much higher than in the general population. Thus, doctors advise such persons at risk to receive consultation at the onset. They also recommend a colonoscopy examination of the colon before the age of 50. The reason for this is that doctors will subtract 10 from the age at which the family member was diagnosed with colon cancer. For instance, when a father has been diagnosed with colon cancer at 40, his children should be consulting a doctor for an initial assessment when they are aged 30 (40 – 10).

  • Cases where no family members have suffered from colon cancer

These people should not overlook the specter of colon cancer. This is because there have been many occasions where hereditary cancer genes may or may not have presented themselves throughout the course of a person’s life, depending on an individual’s body state. Our parents may have had a cancer gene present which did not present itself. So, the best chance of prevention is to undergo colon cancer screening. Those at risk can get a screening through a blood test, saliva sample assessment or from a laboratory test on cells found inside the cheek. The patient does not have to fast from liquids or solids for any of these methods. And, patients will receive results within 30 days.

There are currently various methods available with regard to precision medicine treatment for colon cancer, such as:

  • Targeted therapy: This method destroys cancer cells while leaving healthy cells intact. As a result, it increases the chances of successful treatment as well as prolongs the life of the patient. Furthermore, this treatment has the added advantage of reducing the torment caused by side effects related to chemotherapy. Before the use of such drugs, doctors may carry out genetic screening to identify the likelihood of a successful response to the medication.

Immunotherapy for colon cancer: This method improves the cancerous cells’ response to medication. Immunotherapy comes in many forms, such as monoclonal antibodies, which are chemicals that imitate the body’s existing antibodies. Another method are immune checkpoint inhibitors, which increase our immune system’s ability to identify and destroy cancer cells. Thereby, it improves the patient’s chance of leading a longer, healthier life.


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Assist.Prof. Objoon Trachoo, M.D. Summary: Internal Medicine Internal Medicine