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Blood test could offer early alert on breast cancer

By John von Radowitz

A simple blood test could offer many women an early warning of breast cancer even if they do not inherit genes linked to the disease.

Scientists have identified a molecular "switch" in blood samples that increases a woman's chances of having breast cancer.

The marker is associated with the BRCA1 breast cancer gene, but was also found in women without the mutation who went on to develop the disease. Around 10% of breast cancers are caused by BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene variants inherited from parents, leaving 90% of cases unexplained.

A woman with the BRCA1 gene has an 85% risk of developing breast cancer, leading some carriers to take the drastic step of breast removal. But until now there has been no reliable way of predicting the likelihood of non-inherited breast cancer.

Dr Matthew Lam, senior researcher at Breakthrough Breast Cancer, described the findings at University College London as "definitely promising".

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