The best weapon we could have against breast cancer is the ability to stop it occurring in the first place. To do this, we need to know who is most at risk of breast cancer and what we can do to prevent them from developing the disease.

The ambition

Our aim is to predict accurately who is at increased risk of breast cancer and enable them to take action with the right interventions – whether that’s lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise, risk-reducing surgery or drugs.

Our approach

We’ve pioneered risk and prevention work across research and embedded it in public health and policy campaigns. Now, by building on these strong foundations, we believe we have the potential drastically to reduce the numbers of women developing breast cancer in the future.

Understanding the genetic and lifestyle causes of breast cancer is critical to discovering how to prevent the disease. We need to work out how genetics, such as faults in the BRCA genes, affect the risk of developing breast cancer.

Our researchers are also investigating how a person's genes might work together with non-genetic risk factors (such as age, age at first period, childbirth and breast density) to increase their overall risk of breast cancer. This knowledge could help to improve current methods of assessing breast cancer risk in people with a family history of the disease.

We don’t yet know enough about what causes male breast cancer and how it differs from breast cancer in women. Our researchers are studying samples of male breast tumours donated to our Tissue Bank looking for changes to the DNA to understand how they increase breast cancer risk in men. This work could help to predict accurately a man’s risk of developing breast cancer.

We are also running one of the world’s largest studies into breast cancer in men to uncover the genetic, lifestyle and environmental factors that increase breast cancer risk in men.

Risk-reducing drugs (chemoprevention) also have a role to play in stopping women developing breast cancer, but with this opportunity comes real challenges. We can’t yet predict which women will respond to these drugs, so our researchers are working hard to figure this out as well as finding alternatives for women who won’t benefit from existing drugs.

More information

Find out more about the research projects we are funding