Cancer is responsible for more deaths annually than stroke, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and fatal accidents combined. As a public, we know the havoc cancer can wreak on an individual and their family. We know about the struggles cancers bring with surgeries, biopsies, and treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation.

However, in spite of all we know about cancer, very few of us are aware of what causes cancer on a molecular level or how to actually protect ourselves against it. In fact, most of us aren’t even sure why knowing what causes cancers on a molecular level should be relevant to us. That’s for the doctors, right?

While explaining each type of cancer and its predicted cause would be nearly impossible, explaining the cause of two of the most lethal types of cancer, colon and lung, isn’t. The KRAS gene is regularly linked to the development of cancer, and knowing whether or not you have it could mean the difference between life and death.

What is the KRAS gene?

The KRAS gene is responsible for producing a protein product that aids in normal tissue signaling, and it is usually tied to a cell membrane. When the KRAS gene is engaged, it properly manages the creation of growth factor and other receptors’ signals. It basically serves as a molecular conductor that filters signals in and out to ensure molecular materials are properly shared. When this gene mutates, it can produce harmful effects to the individual experiencing the mutation.

What happens when it mutates?

A KRAS mutation increases the likelihood of the development of cancer. Colon and lung cancer are responsible for more deaths than any other types of cancer and the KRAS gene is highly linked to their development. When a KRAS gene mutates it makes it more difficult to the body to respond positively to noninvasive therapies or cancer treatments.

The KRAS mutation minimizes treatment response by effecting the body’s epidermal growth factor receptors, or EGFR. The mutation of KRAS and EGFR are commonly found together, and suppress the body’s ability to limit cancer growth. In essence, the KRAS mutation shuts down cell lines responsiveness to anti-EGFR inhibitors allowing cells to continue to mutate in an uncontrolled or unchecked manner.

How can you monitor a KRAS gene mutation?

Knowing whether or not you have a KRAS gene mutation can be the difference between simply receiving treatment and receiving treatment that will ultimately save your life. Because individuals with a KRAS gene mutation are not typically responsive to common lung and colon cancer treatments, they have to receive more aggressive treatments to experience a higher survival rate.

If your family has a history of colon cancer or lung cancer, or you have already been diagnosed with cancer, consider having a KRAS gene test completed. Tests are non-invasive, and can be completed with a simple urine test.

How to I Fight it?

While you can’t necessarily fight a KRAS mutation, you can increase your ability to fight cancer with a few proactive steps. Diet and exercise are two key components to preventing and fighting off cancer. Try to keep your plate regularly loaded with cruciferous or dark green leafy veggies, lean meats, and whole grains, and be sure to get into the gym for at least 30 minutes every day.

Because of the high prevalence of cancer in our society it is often one of the scariest diseases to think about. However, don’t let your fear of cancer prevent you from seeking the proactive healthcare that could save your life. Don’t live in fear, live in the know. One of the best ways to survive cancer is to catch it early, so get tested and remain vigilant.