Everyone has questions concerning cancer and Michael Sherman, medical director for Contra Costa Oncology, would like to answer yours. Contra Costa Oncology has offices in Walnut Creek, Concord, San Ramon and Rossmoor. If you have questions for Dr. Sherman, e-mail Donna Lynn Rhodes or Martha Ross, editor for Walnut Creek Patch, at email@example.com.
Q: What are the hereditary connections that women have with ovarian and breast cancers. Who is at risk? Should they be tested for the BRCA-1 (or 2)?
A: Some breast and ovarian cancers are sporadic, that is, they occur from spontaneous mutations that allow cells to divide more rapidly, invade local tissues, and then spread throughout the body. Some women are predisposed to breast and/or ovarian cancer by virtue of an inherited syndrome that makes these organs more susceptible to becoming cancerous. The BRCA gene helps DNA divide correctly. When that gene is not functioning, breast and ovarian tissue is more likely to become cancer. The guidelines for testing change all the time, but currently any woman with ovarian cancer or a woman with breast cancer that developed at age 45 or under should be tested. It’s imperative to let your doctor know about your family history and update them anytime a relative develops a new cancer.
Q: Which plays a bigger part in determining one’s risk for cancer -- genetics or lifestyle?
A: From what we understand today genetics are the main driving force behind the development of cancer. There are many studies trying to look at environmental factors, but these are not controlled studies. Humans cannot be compared to rats in a cage that are exposed to one different thing at a time; so it is proving difficult to blame specific environmental factors. Radiation is one factor that surely can cause cancer and sadly scientists developed radiation cancer while proving its very existence