Precisely what causes breast cancer is still not known, although we can identify risk factors that increase an individual’s chances of developing breast cancer. What we do know is that breast cancer occurs when something goes wrong with cell production in the breast.
When this process goes awry:
- Old cells might not die as they should when they become damaged or old
- The body might create new cells when they aren’t necessary
- Old cells or superfluous new cells could build up and form a cancerous tumor, or breast cancer
What causes this to happen, however, remains unclear. Certain genes play a part in this cell-production process, and there are some changes, or mutations, in our DNA that can affect those genes, such as mutations of the BRCA genes (BRCA1 and BRCA2). While many women with these gene mutations develop breast cancer, the mutations are likely only a factor in the cancer’s development, rather than the sole underlying cause. These genes are more likely to affect other factors in the body, like hormones, metabolism, and other things that play a part in breast cancer risk.
While BRCA gene mutations are inherited, there are other gene mutations related to breast cancer that are acquired. These may stem from radiation exposure or certain chemicals that cause cancer.
As a National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, Moffitt plays a pivotal role in breast cancer research. Through robust clinical trials and extensive studies, we are taking great strides in understanding breast cancer and developing the most effective approaches to prevention, diagnosis and treatment.
If you have more questions about what causes breast cancer or would like to schedule an appointment without the need for a referral, please contact us at 1-888-663-3488, or complete our new patient registration form online.