Colorectal CancerHereditary Cancer

Between two and five per cent of bowel cancer is inherited and if you have a close family member with the disease, you are 30% more likely to develop it than the rest of the population. 

Certain genetic mutations cause hereditary bowel cancer. If you believe you may be at risk of the disease you can now use genetic testing to determine how likely it is that you will develop it.

Myogenes offers one of the most comprehensive tests on the market. Using a saliva sample, our CLIA-certified laboratory will analyse 98 genes from your DNA and assess your risk of developing 25 different forms of hereditary cancer.

Once you have had the test, you will receive a detailed test report and a personalised health risk management plan. 

Hereditary Cancer Test – Benefits

People are increasingly turning to gene testing because it enables them to manage their health proactively. If the test shows you are at risk of developing hereditary bowel cancer, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk. Everyone is different so we recommend discussing your individual approach with your doctor. 

More regular screening, or screening from a younger age, is normally recommended so that your health can be monitored and any signs of cancer can be picked up in the early stages. There may be certain types of medication you can take as a preventative measure, such as tamoxifen and raloxifene.

You should also talk to close family members as they, too, are at higher risk and may want to have their own test and develop a management plan of their own. 

The Link Between Cancer and Genetics

Your genes are like your body’s instruction manual. They affect how your body develops and maintains itself, including protecting you from cancer. If there is a fault in your genetics (referred to as a mutation), the affected gene won’t function properly and this can lead to an increased risk of cancer.

Researchers have identified mutations in 11 genes that increase your risk of bowel and other cancers. As science advances, we are likely to discover other genetic mutations linked to bowel cancer. 

Among the most common forms of hereditary bowel cancer know currently are:

  • Lynch syndrome – this causes around 1-3% of all bowel cancers. If you have the syndrome it increases your risk of bowel cancer by 25-70% as well as womb, ovarian, stomach, prostate and other cancers. If you test positive for Lynch syndrome, regular screening is recommended as well as treating an infection called Helicobacter Pylori. Your doctor may also advise taking aspirin and considering surgery to reduce your risk. Clinical trials are currently underway into new immunotherapeutic drugs.
  • Familial Adenomatous Polyposis and Attenuated Familial Adenomatous Polyposis – these conditions cause multiple bowel polyps and a significantly increased risk of bowel cancer. If you test positive for FAP and AFAP, regular screening is recommended and your doctor may also suggest preventative surgery.
  • Peutz Jehgers syndrome – this causes polyps in the bowel as well as ovarian tumours and abnormal skin colouring in childhood. It increases the risk of cancer by 39% so regular screening is essential. 

Decembeard – Bowel Cancer Prevention

Around 42,000 people a year are diagnosed with bowel cancer – around one in 15 men and one in 16 women.

December is dedicated to raising the awareness of bowel cancer, through the campaign, Decembeard where usually clean shaven men grow beards and raise money to raise awareness of bowel cancer

The campaign is not only aimed to make more people aware of the early signs and symptoms, but also for ways that bowel cancer can be prevented and the importance of early diagnosis for treatment success.

Sadly, 16,000 people die from bowel cancer each year making it the second biggest cancer killer. However, if the disease is caught early, treatment has a success rate of more than 90%.

How Genetic Testing Works

Genetic testing works by examining the genetic code of the genes associated with an increased risk of cancer. It identified any parts that are missing or extra to the normal code.

Who Should Have the Test?

Genetic testing for bowel cancer will be beneficial if:

  • You have a family history of cancer
  • A close family member had bowel cancer before the age of 50.
  • Someone in your family developed a rare type of cancer.
  • You are healthy but are concerned that you may have an increased risk of bowel cancer.
  • You have colorectal cancer and want to know if it is hereditary (this can be beneficial if you have children).

Genetic testing simply gives you information about your risk. It does not necessarily mean you will get cancer. It does however though enable you to then make sensible lifestyle choices to protect your health and minimise future risk and also access benefits such as early screening.

Watch our short video here to help you better understand the benefits of genetic testing for hereditary cancer, including colorectal cancers.

If you are concerned about your risk of colon cancer, talk to the Myogenes team about the potential benefits of genetic testing.