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New method to detect breast cancer risk unveiled

Tuesday January 15th, 2019

A “game-changing” method of calculating a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer is announced today by Cancer Research UK.

The comprehensive method takes into account more than 300 genetic indicators for breast cancer and combines family history and genetics with other factors, including weight, age at menopause, alcohol consumption and use of hormone replacement therapy, developers said.

This makes calculating the risk much more precise than ever before, say the scientists behind the study, which is published today in Genetics in Medicine.

The research team say although individually some of the factors they looked at have a small impact on the likelihood of developing the disease, combining them all, plus looking at family history and genetics, can help to identify groups of women who have different risks of developing breast cancer.

They have created an online calculator, which is being tested by some GPs, practice nurses and genetic counsellors, before it is considered for wider use.

Professor Antonis Antoniou, lead author at the University of Cambridge, UK, said: “This is the first time that anyone has combined so many elements into one breast cancer prediction tool. It could be a game changer for breast cancer because now we can identify large numbers of women with different levels of risk – not just women who are at high risk.

“This should help doctors to tailor the care they provide depending on their patients’ level of risk.”

Dr Richard Roope, Cancer Research UK’s GP expert, added: “Although having an increased risk of breast cancer means a woman is more likely to develop the disease – it’s by no means a certainty. A woman at high risk may never get breast cancer just as a woman at low risk still could. But any woman with concerns should speak to her GP to discuss the options.”

The study authors says that the risk calculation could also help people to make decisions about preventative therapy; could help identify high-risk women who may benefit from taking the drug tamoxifen; and could encourage women to think about the ways they could reduce the risk themselves.

Lee et al. BOADICEA: a comprehensive breast cancer risk prediction model incorporating genetic and nongenetic risk factors. Genetics in Medicine 15 January 2019.

Tags: Cancer | UK News | Women's Health & Gynaecology

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