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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 that have evolved to take on different responsibilities, depending on the genetic code found in each of those cells. The genetic code, or “genes” as they are known, are transferred from parents to their offspring and may present themselves in various external forms, such as through our facial shape, appearance, hair color and smile, or internally through numerous aspects, including our response to medication, response to diet and levels of risk regarding diseases like cancer.

Environmental changes and toxins all around us, as well as 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. These genes can be categorized 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?

  • Anyone who has behavioral habits or life situations that increase the risk of cancer, such as experiencing frequent bouts of constipation, not eating enough vegetables, regularly consuming chargrilled foods, drinking alcohol, smoking, suffering from chronic stress or being over the age of 50 years.
  • People who have more than two first-degree relatives who suffered from colon cancer, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, lung cancer, anal cancer, etc., or those with a first-degree relative who was diagnosed with cancer under the age of 50, are all advised to undergo colon cancer screening with NBI technique developed in Japan, which has been found to double accuracy rates. Click to read more
  • Members of the general population who have a family member that has been diagnosed with hereditary cancer.

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

  • Cases where a person’s first-degree relative has been identified as suffering from colon cancer

In such cases, the person’s risk of also developing colon cancer will be much higher than in the general population. It is therefore advised that a doctor be consulted at the outset to perform a colonoscopy examination of the colon before the patient reaches 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 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. The best chance of prevention is to undergo colon cancer screening, be that through a blood test, saliva sample assessment or from a laboratory test on cells found inside the cheek. None of these methods require the patient to fast from liquids or solids, while the results are made available 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, in order to increase the chances of successful treatment and prolong the life of the patient. 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 that have been specifically developed to fight against a certain type of cancer. Another method are immune checkpoint inhibitors, which increase our immune system’s ability to identify and destroy cancer cells, thereby improving the patient’s chance of leading a longer, healthier life.

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Ph.D. Objoon Trachoo, M.D. Summary: Internal Medicine Internal Medicine