Risky genes = HBOC syndrome
Risky genes can be passed down through the generations. They dramatically increase the risk of some types of cancer, often hitting at a young age. HBOC stands for ‘hereditary breast and ovarian cancer’ because those are the two most predominant cancers caused by risky genes. Risky genes may also increase risk of some other types of cancer, depending on the mutation.
HBOC syndrome is a fairly new discovery. The first genes that, if mutated, cause hereditary breast cancer were discovered about 20 years ago and named BRCA1 and BRCA2, which stands for ‘breast cancer 1’ and ‘breast cancer 2’. Since then, many more risky genes have been and will continue to be discovered that also fall under HBOC syndrome.
How common are risky genes?
Risky genes are much more common than most people realize. The media too often downplays the incidence or only tells part of the story, as was often the case surrounding Angelina Jolie Pitt’s genetic status as a BRCA1 carrier, creating widespread public misperception that HBOC syndrome is only a small problem. Hereditary breast, ovarian and prostate cancer affects 3-5 times more people than multiple sclerosis, and most will agree that is not a small problem.
What should I look for in my family?
Risky genes cause a risk of breast, ovarian, prostate and a variety of other cancers. Genetic counsellors will look for incidences of those cancers along with a variety of other red flags within the side of your family suspected to carry risky genes.
How do I test for Risky Genes?
The first step is to compile and discuss your family history with your primary health care doctor. If risky genes are suspected, ask for a referral to a genetics clinic or a dedicated high risk clinic in your area.