Renal Cell Live!

Monday, June 19, 2006

You can't pick your relatives

No, this won't be a sob-filled post about my evil family - I love my brother and sister, and my parents never beat me (though there were probably times they should have).

My brother's first words, on seeing my shaved head: "You look like Uncle Bernard - or, actually, you look like Grandpa Ray." Yep, just the words a girl wants to hear (though if I had bushy eyebrows I could look like Uncle Floyd too). We know we get external similarities from our ancestors, but what else?

Renal cell carcinoma has several forms - the most common is clear cell, with small percentages of patients having chromosomal or papillary forms. What has become clearer with time and a better understanding of the human genome is that there are genetic predispositions toward RCC. One genetic malformation at 3-p25, for instance, is a marker for von Hippel-Lindau syndrome. VHL expresses itself with various types of cysts, tumors and cancers including RCC.

You might try a little exercise: go back 2 or 3 generations. For those who have died, use your memory to "fill in the blank" about cause of death, and if you're really serious, get death certificates. This is roughly what I found out:

Paternal grandfather: died age 88, complications of diabetes
Paternal grandmother: died age 90, ovarian cancer
Father: died age 66, esophageal cancer
Paternal uncle: died age 84, natural causes

Maternal grandfather: died age 65, pancreatic cancer
Maternal grandmother: died age 42, kidney failure
Mother: died age 77, complications of diabetes
Maternal uncle: died age 71, heart attack
Maternal uncle: died age 75, adrenal cancer
Maternal aunt: died age 41, cerebral hemmorrhage

The further back you search, the less precise the information and the harder it is to find medical records. I really don't know about my maternal grandmother's death, other than that she died when my mother was 10, in 1933. She'd been ill for years, and had gone several times to a sanitarium in southern Indiana, where "taking the waters" was supposed to be good for kidney ailments.

Do yourself a favor - ask questions now, while there are still "grown-ups" around. I wish I had asked more questions when I still had parents and grandparents around.



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