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Genetics and cancer risk

We are world-renowned for our work to understand the genetic and lifestyle factors that affect cancer risk. We have uncovered more cancer predisposition genes than any other organisation, and we host some of the world’s largest epidemiological studies of the environmental and lifestyle factors that influence whether people develop cancer.

Blood samples ready for analysis

The ICR has helped pinpoint cancer predisposition genes for a wide variety of cancers.

Most famously, we identified the breast cancer gene BRCA2, which has allowed families of people with cancer to be assessed for their future risk.

We have also used highly powered statistical techniques, including genome-wide association studies, to identify genetic variants that individually may only have a small effect on cancer risk, but together can play an important role in influencing whether people develop cancer.

Under our research strategy, Making the discoveries, we are now seeking to ensure that our discoveries in genetics and cancer risk have an impact on patient care as quickly as possible.

We are aiming to embed genetics as a much more routine part of cancer care and treatment – giving patients the opportunity for personalised cancer therapy, and their families access to cancer prevention strategies.

We also host several long-term epidemiological studies, including the Breast Cancer Now Generations Study – the world’s largest study into the causes of breast cancer, following more than 100,000 UK women for 40 years.

Such population-scale studies create huge datasets, which we will make publicly available to help inform public health and prevention programmes (a commitment in our research strategy).

And, to help lay the foundations for our research in this area, we are investing heavily in new digital infrastructure for the storage, transfer and analysis of Big Data.

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