How Are Genes Involved?

What is a gene?

A gene is a piece of DNA. and A gene instructs our bodies how to function. The human body has around 20,000-25,000 genes. We get half of our genes from our mother and half from our father.

What is a gene mutation?

There are multiple genes that can contribute to cancer development. A gene mutation refers to a change in a gene. The mutation means the gene cannot work properly and may cause that cell to start growing out of control, which can lead to cancer. As the cancer continues to grow, additional gene changes will occur. Even within the same tumor, cancer calls may have different genetic mutations.

Inherited mutations are rare and are only the cause of about (5-10% of all cancer. These are gene mutations we are born with, because we have inherited them from either our mother or father, and they that are present in the egg or sperm cells that make us. These mutations are present in all of our cells in our body and we can pass them to our children. Hereditary cancers occur because of these mutations. People with these inherited genetic mutations are predisposed to developing certain cancers.

Conversely, most cancers, approximately 90-95%, occur because of mutations that happen in our cells (body’s building blocks) over our lifetime. These are the result of errors that occur as cells divide or exposure to substances, such as certain chemicals in tobacco smoke, and radiation, such as ultraviolet rays from the sun, that damage DNA. Acquired mutations develop in our cells over the course of our life and may cause us to develop health problems but they are not passed down to our children.

We do not inherit cancer – we can inherit an increased risk for cancer.