A blood test that can detect breast cancer decades before the disease develops could be available in five years
The test could help doctors to identify women at high risk of the disease allowing them to take preventive medicines and switch to healthier lifestyles.
Researchers have identified a ‘genetic switch’, carried by one in five women, that doubles their risk of developing breast cancer.
Experts described the breakthrough by scientists at Imperial College London as “exciting” and said signs of the disease could be detected “many decades in advance”.
Dr James Flanagan, who led the new research, said the test could be available in five to ten years.
The ‘genetic switch’ is influenced by lifestyle factors such as alcohol, smoking, pollution, and hormones including HRT.
Carrying the genetic alterations increase a woman’s lifetime risk of developing breast cancer from one in eight in the general population to one in four.
These tiny genetic changes could be detected in blood samples years before symptoms of breast cancer developed.
Scientists analysed blood samples from 1,380 women of various ages, 640 of whom went on to develop breast cancer.
On average, the blood tests were carried out three years before diagnosis. In some cases they pre-dated the discovery of breast cancer by up to 11 years.
The results were especially clear in blood samples from women under the age of 60.
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