Cancer in your family history? Your genes are not your destiny

November 21, 2014 | by Valerie Zapanta

When it comes to cancer, your family history may provide more questions than answers: How do my genes increase my risk for cancer? No one in my family has had cancer; does that mean I won’t get cancer? What cancers are common in certain populations and ethnicities?

City of Hope experts have some guidance. “Your genes are not your destiny, but they can play a role in the decisions you make related to cancer screenings, diet and interventions that you do along the way,” said Joseph Alvarnas, M.D., director of medical quality and an associate clinical professor in the Department of Hematology & Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation at City of Hope. “You can take an active role in how you move along in life, rather than be the passive recipient of the hand that genetics happens to deal to you.”

On Nov. 11, City of Hope physicians and researchers came together to have a conversation about genetics and cancer, the underlying facts of what our genes could tell us about our health, and how our environment relates to cancer.

Moderator Linda H. Malkas, Ph.D., associate  chair and professor of molecular and cellular biology, led the discussion, asking tough questions and raising concerns that many people have.

Besides Alvarnas, featured speakers were Sophia Wang, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Department of Population Sciences; and Susan Neuhausen, Ph.D., The Morris & Horowitz Families Professor in Cancer Etiology & Outcomes Research.

Watch the “Cancer: Is It In My Genes?” presentation above to hear the full conversation. You can also watch past Ask the Experts programs on City of Hope's YouTube channel.

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Learn more about our research in  clinical cancer genetics.

Learn more about becoming a patient or getting a second opinion at City of Hope by visiting our website or by calling 800-826-HOPE (4673). City of Hope staff will explain what's required for a consult at City of Hope and help you determine, before you come in, whether or not your insurance will pay for the appointment.

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