Breast Cancer Risks Narrows Down with New Gene Testing

Breast Cancer Narrows Down


Breast cancer risks show significant improvement with gene testing. A gene test advising women how likely they are to develop breast cancer could quickly be used on high-risk groups.

The Manchester scientists behind the test said it could decrease the number of women having surgery to remove their breasts, by narrowing down their risk.

The test, on blood or saliva, looks at 18 genetic variations known to affect the odds of getting breast cancer.

breast cancer


Cancer charities said it would have a real influence on women and lead to fewer being diagnosed with the disease.

The Single Nucleotide Polymorphism (SNP) test will initially be available for patients having tests at St Mary’s Hospital and Wythenshawe Hospital in Manchester for BRCA1 and 2 gene mutations, with a family history of breast cancer.

BRCA has been named the ‘Angelina Jolie gene’ after the actress revealed she had surgery after discovering she had up to 87% chance of developing breast cancer.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Jolie had a double mastectomy, and her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed


That is the figure quoted to all women with a BRCA gene mutation, but in fact, their risk of cancer is much more complex than that and different for every person.

Prof Gareth Evans, who led the research into the test at Manchester University Foundation Trust, says women with a BRCA mutation have a risk of breast cancer anywhere between 30% and 90%.

Being able to narrow down a woman’s individual risk will mean they are better educated about whether to have a mastectomy or not, he says.

By merging the results of the test with information on breast density, the age a woman has children or reaches puberty, women are given a percentage change of developing breast cancer within the next 10 years, and during the course of their lifetime.

Image caption Becky said the new test would help women make more informed decisions.

Becky Measures had a mastectomy 11 years ago at the age of 24 after discovering she carried the BRCA1 gene mutation.

She is due to have additional risk-reducing surgery to take out her womb and ovaries in the next four months and has welcomed the news.

“When they find that they have the BRCA1 or 2 genes, many women start to panic that they have to take action immediately.

“The new test will give women more possibilities and help them to make a more educated decision,” she said.

Accurate risk

Prof Evans wants the test to become more widely accessible, ultimately permitting all women to find out their probability of developing breast cancer.

He said: “This is a massive game changer for breast cancer where we now have tests which can give precise risk in the whole population, those with a family history and those with BRCA mutations.”

Prof Evans’ team has been working with Cambridge University and researchers in the US, Australia, and Europe to look at samples from 60,000 women.

Within two years they hope to have enhanced the gene test which might contain up to 300 genetic variations that are known to affect the probability of developing breast cancer.

Better choices

They are also examining whether they can use their work to comprehend how genes increase or decrease the risk of developing prostate, uterine, ovarian, lung and colorectal cancers.

That could be predominantly helpful to BRCA mutation carriers, who are also at a bigger risk of ovarian cancer.

Dr. Justine Alford from Cancer Research UK said: “The more that we learn about the genetic workings behind these increased risks of developing breast cancer in women who have a family history of the disease, the better the choice they can make about their health.”

Lester Barr, chairman of Prevent Breast Cancer, a Manchester-based charity which financed some of the research, said the next step was to assist women with no family history of breast cancer who may still carry a genetic risk of the developing the disease.


Read more: