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Cancer Treatment Centers of America

Inherited gene mutations linked to breast cancer

All cancers are caused by changes to critical molecular structures in the body called genes. These changes are known as mutations, or abnormalities, and they may be caused randomly, by outside influences such as pollution, smoking or sun exposure, or because they were inherited through the family line. Not everyone who is born with a gene mutation will develop cancer. Inherited gene mutations may be passed from either parent and may increase the cancer risk in both women and men. The risk from inherited gene mutations varies greatly, depending on the abnormality and other factors. 

Dr. Maurie Markman explains the difference between genetics and genomics. 


BRCA1 and BRCA2 (Breast Cancer 1 and Breast Cancer 2) are the best-known genes linked to an increased breast cancer risk. Everyone has these genes, but some people have inherited a mutation that increases the risk of breast cancer. Both BRCA mutations may be passed from either parent and may affect the risk of cancers in both men and women. In the United States, BRCA mutations are more common in Ashkenazi Jews than in other racial and ethnic groups, but they develop across races, genders and ethnicities.


Last Revised: 06/08/2017

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