Genetic tests for women at risk of cancer may soon be rolled out

Genetic tests for women at risk of cancer may soon be rolled out

The Single Nucleotide Polymorphism test will look for the BRCA1 and 2 gene mutations to try and counter breast and ovarian cancer

Breast cancer screening
Breast cancer screening

A genetic test for groups of women at high risk of breast and ovarian cancer could soon be rolled out after researchers said it might prompt corrective surgery.

The Single Nucleotide Polymorphism (SNP) test, which samples blood or saliva, will at first be available for patients at St Mary’s Hospital in London and Wythenshawe Hospital in Manchester, but cancer charities hope it will be rolled out nationwide.

Clinicians will be testing for the BRCA1 and 2 gene mutations, which are up to ten times more likely in someone with Ashkenazi Jewish heritage. The mutations, which are inherited, can mean women have a 90 percent chance of getting breast cancer, as well as an increased risk of prostate and ovarian cancer.

The issue rose to prominence in 2013 when A-list actress Angelina Jolie underwent a double mastectomy after learning that she had an 87 percent chance of developing breast cancer due to a defective BRCA 1 gene.

The group of University of Manchester researchers behind the new SNP test say it could reduce the number of women having their breasts surgically removed as Jolie did, by narrowing down their risk.

The test examines 18 genetic variants able to affect the chances of getting breast cancer, and clinicians say that being able to narrow down a woman’s individual risk will mean they are better informed to decide on surgery.

Up to one in ten breast cancer cases and one in eight ovarian cancer cases are thought to be caused by inheritance of a BRCA mutation, but not all families with a strong history of breast, ovarian and prostate cancers have mutations in BRCA genes, as many other genes can also lead to an increased risk of these cancers.

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