A history of cancer in the family can increase your own risk of developing the same or another type of cancer, a European study suggests.
Parents can pass on cancer genes to their children
The research found that the close relatives of 12,000 people in Switzerland and Italy with one of the selected 13 cancers studied had an increased risk of the same disease.
The thirteen cancers studied were mouth and pharynx, nasopharynx, oesophagus, stomach, bowel, liver, pancreas, larynx, breast, womb, ovaries, prostate and kidney.
The study was carried out on 23,000 people in Italy and Switzerland, 12,000 of whom had cancer and 11,000 without the disease. It was published in the journal Annals of Oncology and the study period lasted 18 years from 1991 to 2009.
The scientists collated the data of the participants’ family cancer history, especially close relatives who share roughly half of their genes – usually a parent, sibling or child.
Amongst the data the researchers found that the close relative of someone who had oral cancer were four times at risk of oesophageal cancer. Similarly breast cancer doubled the chance of female family members developing ovarian cancer.
According to Cancer Research UK, cancer is the second biggest killer in the UK affecting one in three of us during our lifetime.
There was a link made between different cancers being prominent in some families due to their drinking and smoking habits which would alter the risk of developing cancer.
However there was also evidence that pointed towards a genetic link responsible for a range of cancer sites in the body amongst family members.
Cancer Research UK’s senior health information manager Jessica Harris believes that genetics do play a part in cancer but there is a combination of environment and lifestyle to consider also.
"Whether or not someone in your family has had cancer, living a healthy life can really help to stack the odds in our favour, and reduce the risk of cancer," Harris said.
"The main things you can do are to be a non-smoker, cut down on alcohol, and stay in shape by being active and eating a balanced diet."
Some health insurance providers can include comprehensive cancer care should you wish to have it in your policy.
© ActiveQuote Ltd. 2013