Breast cancer breakthrough: new genetic risk factors discovered

British scientists have come closer to developing an early warning test to detect breast cancer, which could save millions of lives...

British scientists have discovered five more breast cancer-causing genetic mutations on top of the 13 already known, which may help lead to the development of an early warning test for the disease.

The study conducted by the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) found that women who had the variants were 16% more likely to develop the cancer. Comparing the genetic codes of more than 16,500 women with breast cancer and a family history of the disease with about 12,000 women without either, it identified areas of DNA known to influence the risk of cancer.

The ICR research was funded by Cancer Research UK and the Wellcome Trust. 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 risk so that they can make informed decisions about how to take steps to reduce their chance of developing the disease.’

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in the UK, with more than 45,500 new diagnoses a year. While lifestyle influences the risk, inherited genetic factors also play a significant part.

Dr Caroline Hacker, policy manager at Breakthrough Breast Cancer, said: ‘This could lead to new genetic tests which may help identify women who have an increased risk of breast cancer due to inherited faults in genes.

‘Although there isn’t anything we can do about the genes we inherit, we do know that you can reduce your risk of breast cancer by maintaining a healthy weight, limiting alcohol consumption and exercising regularly.’

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