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Cancer Genetics

Risk of Mutant Cells Forming Elsewhere

03/10/2003

Question:

I understand that cancer might be caused by in some cases by exposure to certain chemicals or other "natural" processes, etc. that mutate the cells or DNA in certain parts of the body. I am middle aged and had a low stage bladder polyp that turned out to be a low stage, low grade cancer and it was removed (burned via cystoscopy)and no further action was required. Monitoring over the last four years has not seen a return. My question is: does that tendency for cells to mutate (and maybe have been weak cells or predisposed to mutation previously) raise the chances for other cells in other parts of the body to be more of a risk for future cancer development?

Answer:

As you mentioned, there may be a number of possible causes for bladder polyps, most of which are environmental, and some may be inherited predispositions. In reviewing the literature on bladder polyps and hereditary cancer syndromes, there are few syndromes that predispose an individual to bladder polyps. As this was a single event, and not occurring at an unusually early age (for example, in your teens or twenties), the bladder polyp is probably not an indication of a hereditary cancer syndrome about which we have information. The most appropriate action for you to take is to have regular breast and colon cancer screening (please refer to your doctor concerning these issues). If you do not have a strong family history of cancers, (for example father or mother, brothers and sisters), there is probably nothing to be overly concerned about. However, this should be discussed with your regular management team, and, if further action is appropriate, you could meet with a medical geneticist and/or genetic counselor. Your physician should be able to help you with that.

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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