Researchers discovered a strong association between risk of the disease and a molecular change in a particular white blood cell gene. They also looked for a chemical effect called methylation, which is known to act as a “gene switch”. Women showing the highest methylation levels affecting the ATM gene were twice as likely to develop breast cancer compared with those with the lowest levels.
The test could help doctors to identify women at high risk of the disease years in advance allowing them to take preventive medicines and switch to healthier lifestyles.
Baroness Delyth Morgan, chief executive of Breast Cancer Campaign, said: “this research is so exciting because it suggests that there is every possibility the risk of developing breast cancer could be decided many decades in advance…..By piecing together how this happens, we can look at ways of preventing the disease and detecting it earlier to give people the best possible chance of survival.”
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