Sarcoma: The Inherited Risk of Cancer

Sarcoma -The Inherited Risk of Cancer

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The American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates that there would be 1,685,210 new cancer cases this year, with 595,690 deaths in the country. This translates to roughly over 1,600 Americans dying from cancer each day.

Despite this very high mortality rate, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stipulates that “new cancer cases can be reduced and many cancer deaths can be prevented.” Screening for certain cancers, vaccines, and reducing cancer risks by living a healthy lifestyle, minimizing alcohol intake, and being physically active, can also help keep cancer at bay.

Yet a person’s genetic predisposition to certain cancers cannot be argued. Sarcoma is one of the rare forms of cancer where lifestyle factors (such as diet, smoking, and lack of exercise) and injury are not linked to the risk of incurring the cancer. It affects the body’s bones, muscles, or soft tissues, and afflicts all age groups, particularly children and young adults. Oftentimes, it is diagnosed too late so there is a low survival rate. The ACS estimates that there would be about 12,310 new cases of soft tissue sarcomas this year, with 4,990 Americans expected to die from it.

With this very dire pronouncement, it only goes to follow that determining a person’s inherited risk of sarcoma is very important. In fact, the exact cause of sarcoma is still unknown, and one of the things that experts are sure about is that there are certain genetic traits that cause sarcomas. In fact, genetic disorders such as Li-Fraumeni syndrome, Gardner Syndrome, retinoblastoma, and neurofibromatosis are among the risk factors of sarcoma.

Recently however, this “family link’ is highlighted in a study published by The Lancet Oncology. According to the BBC report, in 1,100 sarcoma patients, over half were born with gene mutations that increased their risk to cancer. These inherited mutations that were also seen in breast, bowel, and ovarian cancer, among other cancers, were present in most of these patients.

These mutations in several genes that are linked to certain cancers led the researchers to believe that those who have several gene mutations for different cancers may be causing sarcoma, instead of just a single error. In fact, among the participants in the study, one in five patients has multiple gene errors in several genes linked to certain cancers. These patients who have multiple genetic errors are more likely to develop cancer earlier than those with just a single mutation.

With this study, experts can now look into these gene mutations early on through genetic screening. Once the gene errors are found, then it can lead to earlier detection and therefore a more effective treatment of the disease.

Of course, this still means that there is no conclusive cause to sarcomas. However, knowing that there are several gene mutations that may be causing the disease is a step in the right direction, rather than the very vague ‘the cause is unknown’ that is being given to patients who are suffering from this disease. With further research, treatment methods and other options may also be viable to patients.