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Cancer screening could use genetics

Genetic tests that indicate which members of the population are most at risk of catching breast cancer could revolutionise the screening process, according to a new study.

Researchers from Cambridge University looked at seven common "modest risk" gene variants which increase the likelihood of developing breast cancer.

They found that although testing for the genes was of limited use as a clinical tool, it offered a way of broadly separating women at high and low risk.

This could be used to improve national breast cancer screening programmes, making them more streamlined and cost effective.

The tests, used in conjunction with family history information, would enable risk profiles to be drawn up that could decide which sections of the population should be eligible for screening.

Researcher Dr Paul Pharoah, from the university's Department of Oncology and Public Health, said: "We are a few years away from a new and powerful range of genetic tests for breast cancer.

"We believe genetic testing has the potential to enable doctors to identify a woman at an increased risk of breast cancer who would benefit from mammography at an early age or women who may benefit from regular MRI scanning as well."

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Cambridge University

Is a genetic screening test a good idea? Your comments: (Terms and conditions apply)

"I believe genetic screening is a good idea. I am in the process of awaiting results of my own blood test for this taken 7 months ago as I had breast cancer treatment last year and my daughter, sisters and I discussed this with a genetic counsellor and concluded it was a good guide (although not altogether accurate apparently!)." - Diane Carrier, Norfolk