IPH | Hereditary cancer: Potentials for prevention and treatment

Research lab behrakis elliniki simaia


The 4th Lecture of the Institute of Public Health 7th Series of Lectures, was dedicated to hereditary cancer. The Director of Research of the Human Genetics Field of the Molecular Diagnostics Laboratory INRASTES Dr. Drakoulis Yannoukakos, delivered a lecture entitled “Novel Clinical Applications of Human Genetics in Diagnosis & Therapy of Hereditary Cancer”.

Dr. Yannoukakos focused on hereditary cancer while also presented the recent scientific advancements on cancer treatment.


According to current evidence based knowledge, cancer is a genetic disease caused by changes or mutations of our genes. Cancer cases may be classified as:

  • Sporadic cancer – around 70% of cases are due to random factors – exogenous
  • Familial cancer – accumulation of cancers in a family without a specific reason, probably related to common environment or nutrition- around 20% of cases and
  • Hereditary cancer – around 10% of cases

Mutations occur in the course of our lives, with most of them being self-repaired by our own body. With advancing age, the ability of self-repair is declining  and can lead to carcinogenesis.

Cancer cases have not increased proportionally; it is the increased life expectancy and the consequently increased frequency of mutations in the older age that eventually lead to cancer development.


The most common organs for hereditary cancer are:

  • The ovaries – 20% of ovarian cancer is hereditary
  • The breast
  • The colon


Lung cancer is the least hereditary cancer; it mainly occurs due to environmental factors with most common factor being tobacco smoking.


Breast cancer, in comparison to other types of cancer, occurs in younger ages (30-40-years-old) and mainly affects women. In Greece around 6000-8000 breast cancer cases are documented yearly.


Genetic testing in families with family history of cancer can play an important role in decision making regarding one’s health. There are specific guidelines published by international cancer registries when genetic testing is proposed or even mandatory to be performed.


Regarding stress and cancer, the President of the Hellenic Cancer Society Dr. Evangelos Filopoulos highlighted that no study has proven the association between stress and cancer; furthermore, Dr Filopoulos added, “stress is purely subjective and currently we do not have a scientific method to measure or grade stress”.


You can watch the lecture (in Greek) below: