Genetics

Cancer and hereditary risk: talk about it!

Cancer and hereditary risk: talk about it!
Written by TEWSV

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    Some types of cancer, such as breast and ovarian cancer in women or pancreatic, breast and prostate cancer in men, develop due to inherited genetic predispositions. Faced with the difficulty of talking about it, pharmaceutical companies Astra Zeneca and MSD France launch the second edition of the #BRCAJenParle campaign

    In collaboration with three patient associations – BRCA France, IMAGYN and GénétiCancer, the pharmaceutical companies AstraZeneca and MSD France launch the 2And edition of the information and awareness campaign on hereditary cancers called #BRCAJenParle

    BRCA, what is it?

    The mutation of the BRCA gene (for BReast CAncer, or breast cancer in English) is responsible for alterations in the functioning of the cell, which favor its transformation into a cancerous cell.

    When a person has these mutations in their genome, they have a higher risk than the general population of developing cancer. This is called genetic predisposition. This predisposition can most often be inherited from one of the two parents and could perhaps be transmitted to the children.

    In total, more than 80 cancer predisposition genes have been identified, including the BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 genes.

    Feeling of guilt

    In the event of transmission to offspring, there is a one in two risk that the child will inherit the risk factor. Therefore, 5 to 10% of diagnosed tumors are linked to the presence of genetic alterations that can be transmitted to the offspring.

    Parents who pass this risk on to their children may feel guilty and find it difficult to express themselves on the subject, the #BRCAJenParle campaign, via posters and podcasts, is there to help them break this taboo and freedom of speech on the subject to allow an early diagnosis in case of cancer and to alert the people concerned.

    Information to share with loved ones

    Specialists encourage families to talk about the topic. “We have noticed that some relatives do not receive the information, which is lost with the distance between generations, this has been demonstrated in our studies and is also evident in practice. The closer the relatives are – in terms of family distance – from the person to whom the outcome is returned, the less likely they are to receive the information. It is a point of vigilance and a point of improvement. This second awareness campaign is very helpful in reminding people of the importance of discussing this topic with those close to them.” recalls Pr Pascal Pujol, head of the oncogenetics department of the Montpellier university hospital and founding member of the BRCA France association.

    Genetic tests, important tools…

    About 2 out of 1000 women would have a mutation in some genes that increase the risk of breast or ovarian cancer before the age of 40. Among the 80 genes identified, 13 are predisposing factors for these two types of cancer. It should also be remembered that female cancers (breast, uterus and ovary) affect 70,000 women every year.

    Genetic testing may be offered to women who have a family history that may suggest an inherited form or if the cancer appears at an early age.

    … handle with Care

    However, these genetic screening tests must be handled with caution. Indeed, being carriers of an alteration does not mean that you will automatically develop cancer, but that the risk increases for yourself or even for other members of your family.

    Conversely, a negative result does not exclude all risks: a mutation may not be detected by current techniques or a genetic abnormality may not yet be known. However, they remain essential in some cases, as Professor Pujol reminds us: It is “It is now unthinkable to treat breast and ovarian cancers without information on the BRCA1 and 2 genes and HRD for ovarian cancers.” Because these tumors have recently benefited from targeted therapies that reduce the need for chemotherapy or the risk of recurrence.


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