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New breast cancer test a game changer

Tuesday 15th January 2019
A new test that assesses a myriad of possible breast cancer causes in combination has been developed in Cambridge.
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Cancer Research UK has announced the development of a new test to predict the risk of a woman developing breast cancer.

The new test works by combining an analysis of hundreds of genetic markers alongside weighted risks such as height, age at menopause, use of hormone replacement therapy and alcohol consumption.

A key finding of the study, published in Genetics in Medicine, was that these various factors would not be major influences on their own, but when combined the risk level could be much greater.

This means that women who are not obviously in high-risk groups could now be accurately identified as being potentially at significant risk. 

Lead author of the study at the University of Cambridge Professor Antonis Antoniou said: "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." 

The genetic indicator survey looked at 300 biological factors that could act as potential markers, making this the most comprehensive test yet developed. 

Moreover, Cancer Research UK noted that this could also work for other types of cancer specific to women, such as ovarian cancer. 

The researchers have also developed an online calculator that GPs can use in their surgeries to help them refer patients they suspect of being at risk. 

Professor Antoniou said the calculator can help GPs to "tailor" treatments to individual patients according to the level of risk that is calculated. 

He explained: "For example, some women may need additional appointments with their doctor to discuss screening or prevention options and others may just need advice on their lifestyle and diet."

Cancer Research UK’s GP expert Dr Richard Roope emphasised that it is "by no means" certain that a woman diagnosed as high-risk will get breast cancer, or that a low-risk patient will not, advising any woman with concerns to speak to her doctor.

Written by Martin Lambert

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