New clues to genetic breast cancer risk

UK researchers have singled out five genetic clues that may identify why some women have a family history of breast cancer.

The new discovery brings the number of genetic variations linked to breast cancer to 18.  The research team was led by Cambridge University and could mean that more women could be screened and treated before they develop breast cancers.

Breast cancer is understood to occur one out of every twenty times due to genetic inheritance.  It is also the most common cancer found in the UK, with over 45,500 new cases of breast cancer diagnosed every year.  It is still not understood precisely why a woman gets breast cancer.  It is thought that lifestyle and environmental factors may influence the likelihood of getting the disease.

The researchers of the project looked into the entire genetic code of 4000 patients that have a family history of the cancer and then looked at the DNA of an additional 24,000 women some of which are battling breast cancer and some of which are not.

After careful study of the gene codes, they found five ‘spots’ on the genome that seemed to be linked to a family history of the devastating cancer.  Previous to the study, scientists had already known that there are two genes in particular that are high risk to someone if they are present, the BRCA1 and BRCA2.

Lead author of the University of Cambridge team, Dr. Douglas Easton, stated that they are confident the gene variations they found increase the risk of breast cancer and while they are not the entire picture or explanation of the presence of breast cancer, they will help genetic profiling of risk factors.