Thinking about cancer or dealing with cancer risk can be scary or overwhelming, but we believe that receiving information and resources is comforting, empowering, and lifesaving.
Cancer happens when genes are damaged due to exposure to external factors over time (smoking, sun exposure, etc). Accumulated damage to genes that control cell growth lead to cells dividing uncontrollably and causing tumors.
For normal cells to become cancerous is a multi-step process that typically takes several years. People at risk for hereditary cancers start life with one damaging change which greatly increases their risk of cancer. But more changes are necessary before cancer occurs. The time required for cancer to develop also provides us with the opportunity to intervene and stop or reverse cellular damage.
We cannot change our inherited mutations but we can change our exposure to factors that can cause additional DNA damage and lead to cancer. Although we know many of these factors that increase the risk for cancer, we cannot precisely measure how much each factor influences risk.