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Genes, Genetics and Kidney Cancer

You have genes in every cell in your body. Genes are the instructions that control the way your cells develop, grow and work. Some genes promote cell growth and others slow cell growth. Cancer is caused by changes called mutations that cause damage to genes. Mutations that affect how these genes function can allow cells to grow out of control and play a part in cancer developing.


GENE MUTATIONS HAPPEN IN ONE OF TWO WAYS:

The mutation that occurs in one or more genes happens by chance or is acquired sometime during our lifetime, because of errors that happen as cells divide or because they have been exposed to certain harmful substances that end up damaging the cell’s DNA. These changes only occur in certain cells and cannot be passed on from a parent to a child. This is the cause of most kidney cancers and these are not inherited.

The mutation in the gene is present at birth. It is usually inherited from a parent, although in some cases, these can be new mutations that occur in the early stages of fetal development (when an unborn baby is growing and developing). These changes exist in virtually every cell in our body and are associated with an increased risk of developing kidney cancer. Even if you carry a gene mutation that can increase your risk for kidney cancer, it does not necessarily mean you will develop cancer.

SOME CLUES THAT KIDNEY CANCER MAY BE HEREDITARY INCLUDE:
  • Many tumours in one kidney.
  • Tumours in both kidneys.
  • A family of history of kidney cancer
  • being diagnosed with kidney cancer at a younger age than usual.

It is important to remember, that most kidney cancers occur by chance (are sporadic) and usually happen as a person gets older. Only about 3% to 8% of kidney cancers are hereditary.

 

MORE INFORMATION:

 

SECTION REFERENCES:

Haas NB, Nathanson KL. Hereditary renal cancer syndromes. Advances in Chronic Kidney Disease. 2014; Jan; 21(1):81-90.

Hampel H, Bennett RL, Buchanan A, et al. A practice guideline from the American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics and the National Society ofGenetic Counselors: referral indications for cancer predisposition assessment. Genetics in Medicine. 2015; Jan;17(1):70-87.

Ho TH, Jonasch E. Genetic Kidney Cancer Syndromes. Journal of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network. 2014; September;12(9):1347-1355.

Lattouf JB, Pautler SE, Reaume MN, Eva ,et al. Structured assessment and followup for patients with hereditary kidney tumour syndromes. Canadian Urological Association Journal. 2016; 10(7-8):E214-22.

Linehan WM. Genetic basis of kidney cancer: role of genomics for the development of disease-based therapeutics. Genome Research. 2012; Nov;22(11):2089-100.

National Cancer Institute. The Genetics of Kidney Cancer (Renal Cell Cancer) (PDQ®) – Health Professional Version. Updated: 10/13/2016.

Reaume MN, Graham GE, Tomiak Eva, et al. Canadian guideline on genetic screening for hereditary renal cell cancers. Canadian Urological Association Journal. 2013; 7(9-10):319-323.

U.S. National Library of Medicine. Genetics Home Reference: Your Guide to Understanding Genetic Conditions. Help Me Understand Genetics. Published: 12/1/2016