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Genes and Cancer
Learn how gene mutations can lead to cancer, what types of cancer may be hereditary and how parents can pass inherited mutations to their children.

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Damage and Gene Mutations

Cancers are caused by damage to the in your cells. These changes are called “gene mutations.” Gene mutations can build up in cells in your body over time. Cells with too many mutations may stop working normally, grow out of control and become cancerous. It can take many years for cells to build enough damage to become cancer.

  • Gene mutations that build up in cells are called "acquired" or "somatic" mutations.
  • are caused by “wear and tear” damage on genes over time.
  • Aging, exposure to hormones, environmental toxins, and certain viruses can cause mutations.

image of normal cells becoming cancer cells

Last updated January 31, 2022