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Breast cancer occurs when abnormal cells in the breast grow in an uncontrolled manner. It occurs in both men and women, but women are at greater risk due to their breast development and lifelong exposure to oestrogens. Cells that grow abnormally can form tumours. Breast cancer occurs when breast tumours spread. There is generally a long period between breast tissue changes and the development of breast cancer.
DNA plays a central role in the development of all cancers, including breast cancer. Like other cells in the body, breast cells contain DNA which provides instructions for cell growth and division. When a cell divides its DNA is copied precisely. But occasionally a mistake known as a “mutation” occurs that may be passed on to other cells. Over time mutations accumulate and their combined effects lead to breast cancer. The more often a cell divides the greater the risk of mutations occurring and accumulating.
There is no simple cause of breast cancer. A variety of risk factors come together to make you more, or less, susceptible. Some of these risk factors are inherited, some are incurred throughout your life and others are present in the environment in which you live.
Naturally occurring oestrogens (and some other hormones in our bodies) can influence the risk of developing breast cancer, mainly because of their ability to increase rates of cell division and promote the growth of oestrogen-responsive tumours.
Modern-day living is increasing our risk of getting breast cancer, with those born in earlier generations or in less well-developed regions having a lower risk of developing the disease.
For more information visit our susceptibility page.
Breast cancer is a diverse group of diseases. It may be invasive or non-invasive.
The most common types of invasive breast cancer include:
If you share our concerns about the links between harmful chemicals and breast cancer, please consider donating to help fund our next important project. By understanding the causes of breast cancer we can reduce the chances of our loved ones being diagnosed in the future. Thank you.
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