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Cancer Genetics

Mouth Cancer

08/06/2009

Question:

My mum and her brother both died of mouth cancer. Can me and my siblings get tested to see if it`s genetic?

Answer:

Research suggests that having a family history of cancer predisposes close relatives (children, brothers and sisters) to the same kind of cancer. This would mean that you have a somewhat higher chance of developing mouth cancer than the average individual your age. Most estimates are that lifetime cancer risk is about doubled; this probably applies to mouht cancer as well as most other cancers. The lifetime risk for an American to develop mouth cancer is between 0.6% and 1.5%.

There is currently no genetic test available to determine whether you are at increased risk for mouth cancer.  Some of the identified risk factors for mouth cancer include tobacco use (smoking, chewing and possibly snuff) and alcohol consumption.  You should do your best to avoid these risk factors.  You can discuss your concerns with your primary care physician or with your dentist; either of these doctors can perform regular oral exams for early detection.

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Response by:

Duane D Culler, PhD, MS Duane D Culler, PhD, MS
Clinical Instructor of Genetics
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University