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Genes point to cancer risk

  • Blog Post by: Colleen Stoxen
  • March 27, 2013 - 12:29 PM

New research has nearly doubled the number of genetic variations implicated in breast, prostate and ovarian cancer, offering fresh avenues for screening at-risk patients and, potentially, developing better drugs.

The bumper haul of 74 gene changes that can increase risks for the three hormone-related cancers, announced by scientists on Wednesday, is the result of the largest ever study of its kind.

It follows an international project to analyze the DNA of more than 200,000 people - half of them with cancer and half from the general population - to find alterations that are more common in individuals with the disease.

Although each gene variation increases cancer risk by only a small amount, scientists calculate that the 1 percent of men carrying lots of the alterations could have a 50 percent increased risk of developing prostate cancer.

Women with multiple variants could see their risk of breast cancer increase by 30 percent.

Doug Easton of the University of Cambridge, one of the cancer researchers who led the work, said the batch of new genetic discoveries meant medical experts would be able to develop new cancer screening programs. They also hope it will boost knowledge of how the cancers develop.

"I would think that within five to 10 years this might be being used commonly, if not in a very widespread population base," said Paul Pharoah, also of the University of Cambridge.

Read more from Reuters.

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