Changes or mutations in DNA can cause normal breast cells to become cancer. Certain DNA changes are passed on from parents (inherited) and can greatly increase your risk for breast cancer. Other lifestyle-related risk factors, such as what you eat and how much you exercise, can increase your chance of developing breast cancer, but it’s not yet known exactly how some of these risk factors cause normal cells to become cancer. Hormones seem to play a role in many cases of breast cancer, but just how this happens is not fully understood.
Normal breast cells become cancer because of changes (mutations) in DNA. DNA is the chemical in our cells that makes up our genes. Genes have the instructions for how our cells function.
Some DNA mutations are inherited or passed to you from your parents. This means the mutations are in all your cells when you are born. Some mutations can greatly increase the risk of certain cancers. They cause many of the cancers that run in some families and often cause cancer when people are younger.
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But most DNA mutations linked to breast cancer are acquired. This means the change takes place in breast cells during a person’s life rather than having been inherited or born with them. Acquired DNA mutations take place over time and are only in the breast cancer cells.
Mutated DNA can lead to mutated genes. Some genes control when our cells grow, divide into new cells, and die. Changes in these genes can cause the cells to lose normal control and are linked to cancer.
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