Breast cancer gene clue discovery
Five genetic clues to why some women have a family history of breast cancer have been identified by UK researchers. It brings to 18 the number of common genetic variations linked to a small increased risk of breast cancer.
The Cambridge University-led research, published in Nature Genetics, could see targeted screening and treatment of women more likely to get breast cancer. It is thought about one in 20 of all breast cancers are down to inherited faults in known genes.
Dr Douglas Easton of the University of Cambridge, lead author of the study, told the BBC: “We know for sure that these gene variations are associated with risk. It is not the whole picture but it will contribute ultimately to genetic profiling of risk. It also contributes to our understanding of why the disease develops and will lead to a better understanding of the biology of the disease.”
Women with a strong family history of breast cancer are already given early screening for signs of tumours. They are also entitled to genetic tests if they have a close relative with breast cancer. The 18 genetic changes linked to breast cancer are not currently tested for. They are thought to account for around 8% of inherited cases of breast cancer. Dr Helen George, head of science information at Cancer Research UK, said: “This research takes us a step closer to developing a powerful genetic test for the disease. Such a test could help doctors identify women who have an increased breast cancer risk so that they can make informed decisions about how to take steps to reduce their chance of developing the disease.”