Understanding the causes of cancer

Every human body has an astonishing 100 trillion cells. Almost all contain the complete genetic information for the formation of a human being. We differ from each other as a result of small differences in this genetic makeup. These differences make us unique, but they can also make some people more likely, or pre-disposed, to develop certain diseases than others.

For example, women with a mutation in two genes associated with breast cancer (BRCA1 and BRCA2) have a greater risk of developing breast cancer. In colorectal cancer, there are two important hereditary forms associated with the loss of a gene on one chromosome and changes on three others. Certain forms of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a type of cancer of the blood, are also linked to an inherited exchange of genes.

These predispositions combine with influences outside the body, including our environment and lifestyle. More than half of all cancers could be prevented by lifestyle changes (Source: Cancer Research UK). Smoking, the amount of alcohol we drink, our weight, our diet, the amount of exercise we take and our habits in the sun can all have an effect. For more information, visit the Cancer Research UK website.

At Roche, our deep insights into the causes of cancer, and people’s predisposition to developing it, is integral to our ambition to develop even more personalised solutions to tackle the disease.