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Genetic screening for breast cancer of women in their 30s urged

08 June 2015

By Jenny Sharpe

Appeared in BioNews 805

Researchers have called for mass screening of women in their 30s to detect cancer-causing mutations.

Currently, only women with a family history of breast or ovarian cancer are offered genetic testing, but Professor Elizabeth Swisher, a medical geneticist at Washington University in Seattle, considers it a 'no brainer' to extend these tests to all women in their 30s.

'Forty percent of women [with mutations] have no family history. So you are basically going to miss out on 40 percent of mutation carriers,' she told attendees of the American Society of Clinical Oncology's annual conference in Chicago.

'Not only are they aggressive cancers, they are early onset so you have lots of years of life to save,' added Professor Swisher.

Approximately 1 in 400 women carry a mutation in their BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes, which can increase their chance of developing breast cancer by up to 80 percent and ovarian cancer by up to 40 percent. Women who test positive for these mutations can then be offered regular monitoring, or, like Angelina Jolie, if considered to be at high risk may choose to undergo preventative surgery (see BioNews 796).

Although universal screening may prevent up to 2,000 cases of cancer a year, testing positive doesn't automatically mean that breast cancer will develop. Some women may prefer not to know their personal risk, but Professor Swisher argued that it was important they are 'given the option'.

Widespread testing in the UK could cost the NHS hundreds of millions of pounds, but Professor Gareth Evans of the Department of Genomic Medicine at the University of Manchester told the Daily Mail that he believes it to be 'feasible'. 'The cost of the test could be as little as £200 if we are doing it on a massive basis. But you would have to build up capacity and decide what age to do it. You can make a strong rationale for it. But someone has to foot the bill for it,' he said. He added that counselling services would also need to be in place to support the women found to have BRCA mutations.

RELATED ARTICLES FROM THE BIONEWS ARCHIVE

19 December 2016 - by Anastassia Bolotkova 
Angelina Jolie's 2013 public announcement that she has the BRCA1</i> breast cancer gene led to a 64 percent increase in women seeking genetic testing for breast cancer...
25 April 2016 - by Dr Katie Howe 
Women with a mutation in the breast-cancer susceptibility gene BRCA1 may have reduced numbers of eggs left in their ovaries, according to a study led by Australian scientists...
22 February 2016 - by Helen Robertson 
More than 95 percent of younger women diagnosed with early-onset breast cancer are opting for genetic testing, a study has found...
28 September 2015 - by Neil Stoker 
Researchers have identified genetic differences in breast cancers that relapse and those that do not, suggesting that the finding could be used to help doctors identify patients most at risk of their cancer returning...
17 August 2015 - by Dr Nicoletta Charolidi 
Researchers have found that tests for multiple breast and ovarian cancer risk genes can be used to inform treatment decisions for women with personal or family history for such cancers...

27 April 2015 - by Dr Indrayani Ghangrekar 
A US company has announced a low-cost genetic test for breast cancer...
13 April 2015 - by Hannah Somers 
A new wide-ranging test that looks at multiple sites in the DNA code could help predict a woman's risk of developing breast cancer...
30 March 2015 - by Sophie McLachlan 
In an article in the New York Times, Angelina Jolie has revealed her decision to have her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed, in her on-going battle to reduce her risk of cancer...
16 March 2015 - by Meghna Kataria 
A new study has uncovered fifteen novel 'hotspots' in the human genome that increase a woman's risk of developing breast cancer - bringing the total count of known genetic risk factors to 94...
09 February 2015 - by Dr Molly Godfrey 
A genetic test to estimate the chance of breast cancer recurrence after surgery is set to become more widely available on the NHS....

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