Does the BRCA1 gene cause breast cancer?
The BRCA1 gene is a gene that helps to repair damage to DNA. Some women have a faulty (mutated) BRCA1 gene. Women with the mutated BRCA1 gene will not definitely get breast cancer, but they are more likely than other women to get it.
To become a cancer cell, there have to be a few damaged genes. The gene changes allow the cell to grow when it shouldn't. To be a fully fledged cancer cell, the gene faults must also allow it to push normal cells aside and then spread to other parts of the body.
The BRCA1 gene is one gene that can contribute to a breast cell becoming cancerous if it is mutated. When a mutated BRCA1 gene is passed from parent to child, all the breasts' cells carry this mutation. They have a head start in the process of collecting enough genetic mutations to enable them to become cancerous. But other changes still need to happen to make a cancer start.
If you have a strong family history of breast cancer, there is a possibility that you have a faulty BRCA1 gene. The only way you can know for sure is if you are tested for the gene. Without a strong family history you can be fairly sure that you do not carry the faulty BRCA1 gene. About 1 in 20 breast cancers is partly caused by an inherited gene fault and the BRCA1 gene is just one of these. There is a page about breast cancer genes in the breast cancer section, including information about gene testing.
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