Genetics Variants and Your Risk of Disease
Genetic differences that you are born with are called “variants”.
Cancer is caused by genetic variants or genetic mutations.
Most cases of cancer have been attributed to genetic mutations resulting from environmental exposures.
A recently discovered type of variant indicates that much more of cancer risk is likely inherited from your parents.
These new variants can lead to an increased risk of cancer. However, because of the way this new class of variant works, they are likely to have identifiable triggers, and thus a path for prevention, as well as to act as a guide to selecting the best treatments.
More on genetic differences, risk of disease, and the potential of these new biomarkers
Differences in your DNA are called genetic variants or genetic mutations.
Variants are inherited from a parent, while mutations are changes that develop during your life from external factors 8. Genetic variants that cause disease are referred to as “pathogenic genetic variants”. Diseases caused by genetic differences are called genetic diseases. Cancer is one example of a genetic disease 9.
A newly discovered, unique class of inherited genetic variant can impact disease risk, but can also be managed by lifestyle choices.
The potential of these new variants to be managed by lifestyle choices means they are fundamentally different from any previously known genetic variants associated with disease risk.
The KRAS-variant is the first example of this unique class of genetic variant associated with cancer.
Research has found a decrease in estrogen, like what women experience during menopause, can trigger the onset of cancer in individuals with the KRAS-variant. If people with the KRAS-variant take hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to replace that estrogen loss, they can dramatically reduce their risk of cancer 7.
It’s important to note that the KRAS-variant is much different from the more well-known KRAS mutations, which are genetic mutations that occur during someone’s lifetime that lead to cancer 11.
Another reason this new class of genetic variant is important is that other genetic diseases are likely to be explained by them.
Other diseases run in families, and while external exposures throughout life may trigger them, little is known about what those exposures are, or who may have genetic variants that would be triggered by them.
Discovering more of these types of variants and the external factors that increase the risk of disease is especially exciting, because those risks can potentially be reduced with interventions.