Women might soon be able to ask their doctors to calculate their risk of developing breast cancer. A new tool can assess the patients' odds of getting the disease.
The tool combines genetic data and lifestyle risk factors, including weight and age, to calculate the likelihood of a woman developing breast cancer. From there, they can opt to whether they want to be screened or not.
The scientists claim that this is the first-ever tool to combine family history and genetics with other risk factors. Details were published in the journal Nature Genetics in Medicine.
Breast Cancer Prediction Tool
In the United States, one in eight women is expected to develop invasive breast cancer in her lifetime. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 237,000 new cases of breast cancer are diagnosed in women every year and about 41,000 of them will die of the disease.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in the United States, but the scientists argued that while there are screening and prevention options, they are often only recommended to those who have an increased risk identified through their family history of cancer. However, there are other factors that might lead to breast cancer.
The CDC lists age, reproductive history, breast density, lack of exercise, being overweight or obese, taking some forms of hormone replacement therapy, and drinking alcohol as risk factors for breast cancer.
Two inherited genes — BRCA1 and BRCA2 — give women a 50 percent chance of getting breast cancer, but other genes might also play a small part in the development of the disease. The tool also takes into consideration around 300 different genes that are associated with breast cancer, creating the most precise prediction tool to date.
"It could be a game changer for breast cancer because now we can identify large numbers of women with different levels of risk — not just women who are at high risk," said Antonis Antoniou of the University of Cambridge and the lead author of the research.
Early Detection, Prevention, And Survival
The scientists hope that the new tool can aid doctors to tailor care for the patients depending on their risk, including advising them to change their diet and lifestyle or discuss screening options. They also hope that this could lead to early detection of breast cancer and, therefore, improve survival rate.
Unfortunately, the tool is not operational as of yet. The researchers said that they still need more research and trials to fully understand how it works before pushing the tool to the public.