Researchers have recently identified a method of detecting whether or not a woman is at risk for breast cancer using a simple blood test. About 10% of breast cancers are due to mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes that are inherited from our parents. Scientists have discovered that women who had been diagnosed with hereditary breast cancer had the same changes in their blood as women who were diagnosed, even though there was no genetic predisposition.
Until recently, there has been no unfailing way to determine whether or not someone with no genetic predisposition was at risk for breast cancer. A team of scientists at University College London determined that the “switch” that causes the genes to be turned on or off is influenced by elements that include smoking and alcohol. Lead researcher Martin Widschwendter revealed that his team identified an epigenetic signature in women with a mutated BRCA1 gene that was linked to increased risk for cancer, and that the same signature was found in groups of women without the mutation.
If a patient has the bloodwork done, and the test reveals that she has a higher risk she can make changes to her lifestyle and work side by side with her physician to examine all the options available to take control of the situation.
Dr. Matthew Lam, senior research officer at the charity Breakthrough Breast Cancer, said: “These results are definitely promising and we’re excited to learn how further research could build on these findings.” These tests are still in development and scientists hope to have them available to doctors within 5 years.
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