Molecular changes that switch genes on or off can set the stage for breast cancer many years before the disease is diagnosed, research suggests.
The discovery could lead to a blood test that will help doctors identify women who are most at risk. Scientists analysed blood samples from 1,380 women of various ages, 640 of whom went on to develop breast cancer.
A strong association was found between molecular modification of a white blood cell gene called ATM and breast cancer risk. The scientists looked for evidence of a chemical effect called methylation, which acts as a “gene switch”.
Women showing the highest methylation levels affecting the ATM gene were twice as likely to develop breast cancer as those with the lowest levels.
On average, the blood tests were carried out three years before diagnosis.
The findings are published in the journal Cancer Research.
UCF to hold walk for patients
Are you undergoing treatment for cancer? The Ulster Cancer Foundation (UCF) is holding an evening walk specifically for cancer patients at the Stormont Estate in Belfast tomorrow.
The charity’s walking service, which is free of charge, is open to cancer patients and the walks have been chosen as suitable for those currently undergoing treatment.
Liz Atkinson, head of Care Services at UCF, highlighted the benefits of gentle exercise to cancer patients.
If you would like to join a walking group, call 028 9066 3281 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.