Don't delay mammograms! Detect breast cancer in the early stages

Georgia Reed
October 25, 2017

Various studies suggest that a moderately active lifestyle with at least 30 minutes of exercising five days a week and a balanced diet can go a long way in protecting women from the risk of breast cancer. The global collaboration involves hundreds of researchers worldwide.

A further seven genes were identified specifically in association with breast cancers that lacked oestrogen receptors, which don't tend to respond to hormone based therapies.

Breast cancer is caused by complex interactions between a large number of genetic variants and our environment.

Scientists behind the study say that the results will help them identify relatives of breast cancer patients who may be themselves at risk for developing the cancer.

In 2017, it is estimated that 17,586 women and 144 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer, according to Breast Cancer Network Australia.

The BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 breast cancer genetic mutations appear at a higher rate in the genes of Ashkenazi Jewish women.

Professor Doug Easton from the Centre for Cancer Genetic Epidemiology and a Fellow at Homerton College, the University of Cambridge - one of the lead investigators on the study - says: "These findings add significantly to our understanding of the inherited basis of breast cancer".

'As well as identifying new genetic variants, we have also confirmed many that we had previously suspected.

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By comparing the genes of those diagnosed with the condition with those who had no history of breast cancer, the researchers were able to identify 65 variations of genes that contributed to the disease's development. Healthy, non-cancerous breast tissue had more of a certain type of bacteria, but the cancerous tissues had other types of bacteria that were elevated.

However most of the new variants found were in gene-regulating regions.

"Many members of our fire department have seen breast cancer affect the lives of their loved ones, so this was a project that was embraced", 'said city spokesperson Jennifer Bradshaw. "There's been a lot of research trying to figure out what that something else is".

Around 70 per cent of all cases of breast cancer are oestrogen-receptor positive, meaning that the cancer cells have a particular protein (known as a receptor) that responds to the female sex hormone oestrogen, enabling the tumour to grow.

Others, known as oestrogen-receptor negative, are not affected by the hormone and are more hard to treat.

Read the full ER-negative study in Nature Genetics.

'These gene changes now have the potential to be incorporated into existing models to more accurately predict an individual's risk, and to improve both prevention and early detection of the disease.

"Many women are offered mammogram screening when they are middle-aged, but if we know a woman has genetic markers that place her at higher risk of breast cancer, we can recommend more intensive screening at a younger age", says Chenevix-Trench.

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