Vim & Vigor - Winter 2019 - UVA - 26

KNOWLEDGE
IS POWER

This is why knowing your family history
matters: If your mother was diagnosed
with breast cancer at a relatively young
age, it might make sense for you to be
tested for genetic mutations to know
your own risk. And family history
risks don't just apply to breast cancer.
Lynch syndrome, which can cause
cancer of the colon and rectum, as
well as other cancers-including in the
stomach, small intestine, liver, gallbladder ducts, upper urinary tract, brain
and skin-is directly connected to a
person's genetics. Genetics can play a
role in cancers of the thyroid, pancreas
and prostate, too.
Researchers have come up with
genetic tests for more than 50 hereditary cancer syndromes and estimate that
inherited genetic mutations cause about
5 to 10 percent of cancers, according to
the National Cancer Institute-still a
small percentage of overall cancers.
For example, of the 140,000 new cases
of colorectal cancer diagnosed each year
in the United States, Lynch syndrome is
responsible for just 3 to 5 percent.
Knowing your risk is the first step,
Milunsky says. When you understand
how likely it is that you'll get a disease,
you can do something about it.

LIFESTYLE MATTERS

What you eat, whether you smoke,
how much you exercise and the pollutants that surround you all can have an
effect-not just on your risk of cancer,
but also on your overall health.

26

W IN TER 2019

"We know that modifications in diet
and physical activity, reducing sitting
time, reducing alcohol consumption and
not smoking have profound implications
in prevention of cancer," Gaudet says.
Even if you inherited a genetic mutation known to cause cancer, the mutation itself is not a guarantee of a cancer
diagnosis-but it can increase your
chances of developing cancer. And for
that reason, Milunsky says, it is important to build regular screening and testing into your healthcare plans.
"If a person is found to have one of
the cancer mutations, then ... there's
a high risk that the actual cancer will

materialize," Milunsky says. "Not
always, of course, but it may. For example, with common breast cancer genetic
mutations, over a person's lifetime,
there may be as high as a 70 or 80 percent chance of that person actually getting cancer."
Being a carrier for the mutation simply means an elevated risk of cancer,
which makes lifestyle factors that much
more important. And when it comes
to cancer prevention, genetics versus lifestyle is an unnecessary debate,
Gaudet says.
"We have known, documented strategies to help those individuals who end up



Vim & Vigor - Winter 2019 - UVA

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Vim & Vigor - Winter 2019 - UVA

Contents
Vim & Vigor - Winter 2019 - UVA - Cover1
Vim & Vigor - Winter 2019 - UVA - Cover2
Vim & Vigor - Winter 2019 - UVA - Contents
Vim & Vigor - Winter 2019 - UVA - 2
Vim & Vigor - Winter 2019 - UVA - 3
Vim & Vigor - Winter 2019 - UVA - 4
Vim & Vigor - Winter 2019 - UVA - 5
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Vim & Vigor - Winter 2019 - UVA - Cover3
Vim & Vigor - Winter 2019 - UVA - Cover4
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