The best weapon we could have against breast cancer is the ability to stop it occurring in the first place. But it’s impossible to do this without answering the questions on who has the highest chance of developing the disease and why.

Is it in the genes?

Our researchers contributed to the discovery that led to genetic tests to see if families have faults in genes linked to breast cancer. Learning this helps people to understand, and take measures to reduce, their chances of getting breast cancer.

But that hasn’t always been the case. Some of our scientists and their colleagues were behind the discovery of the BRCA2 gene back in 1995, making this a reality. Our scientists were also behind the discovery that mutations in the PALB2 gene are linked to breast cancer.

What are the chances?

The Breast Cancer Now Generations Study has been running for over 14 years now, following more than 113,000 UK women with the sole aim to understand the causes of breast cancer and the genetic, lifestyle, and environmental factors that may influence a woman’s chance of developing the disease.

It has helped to uncover more than 160 new genetic variants linked to increased likelihood of developing the disease. It has also shown that the effect of taking hormone replacement therapy on breast cancer risk may have been underestimated by previous studies, among many other findings around smoking, night lights and more. 

This takes us a step closer to understanding why and how breast cancer develops. But we’re not stopping until we have accurate ways to evaluate a woman’s likelihood of developing the disease. We will continue working until we have found tailored ways to reduce the chance of developing breast cancer, so that no one has to hear this devastating diagnosis in the future.