'The Blended Bunch' Family Understands Cancer Risks Better Than Most

Chrissy Bobic - Author

Apr. 6 2021, Updated 2:24 p.m. ET

Erica Shemwell from 'The Blended Bunch'
Source: Instagram

The premise of TLC's The Blended Bunch is that two widowed parents, who found each other after their losses, came together with their own sets of children to build a new family. It's a modern take on The Brady Bunch, but there are some stark differences. The most obvious, of course, is that this is a reality show taking place in the present day.

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But the other huge difference between the two shows is that on The Blended Bunch, four of Erica Shemwell's seven kids are at a higher risk of cancer than most others because they have Li-Fraumeni syndrome. It's not a debilitating disorder, but it does mean that those four children are more likely than their siblings to find out that they have cancer later in life.

shemwell bunch kids
Source: Instagram
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What is Li-Fraumeni syndrome, as shown on 'The Blended Bunch'?

Because Erica's husband died from brain cancer, it may not have been a surprise for her to learn that four of her children carry the genetic disorder called Li-Fraumeni syndrome. According to the Li-Fraumeni Syndrome Association, it's an inherited predisposition of a variety of different, sometimes rare, cancer types. 

Individuals who are living with this disorder have a mutation of the tumor suppressor gene known as TP53. Although people with Li-Fraumeni syndrome are screened regularly for indicators of cancer in their bodies, there are some concerning signs to look out for.

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These signs include a loss of appetite, sudden weight loss, aches and pains with swelling, ongoing headaches, and new unexplained moles that may change in size. Parents with children who have the syndrome should promote a healthy diet for their kids, as well as regular exercise and non-excessive sun exposure. They should also keep their children far from secondhand smoke.

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How likely are Erica Shemwell's children to get cancer?

Erica explained on The Blended Bunch that she worries about discussing mortality with her children since they are all so young and can't fully comprehend the seriousness of living with Li-Fraumeni syndrome. While necessary health screenings could help catch cancer early on in her kids, they do stand an overall higher chance than other children of developing some form of cancer.

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Females living with the disorder are actually almost 100 percent more likely to develop cancer in their life, due to the increased risk of breast cancer. Everyone living with Li-Fraumeni syndrome has about a 50 percent chance of developing cancer by the time they reach 50, and a 90 percent chance by the time they're 60.

Even so, there's no guarantee that any of the cancers these individuals develop will lead to death, or that they will be in the final stages when someone catches them in a screening. The important thing for Erica is to keep a closer eye on her children than most parents would, and to remain diligent about understanding Li-Fraumeni syndrome.

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