Five years from now it may be possible to prevent breast cancer by taking a simple blood test. New research shows that the chances of developing the disease are linked to a molecular modification of the gene ATM, present in white blood cells. In the future, doctors may be able to identify women with this molecular modification to prevent breast cancer occurrence.
The study, published in the journal Cancer Research, is based on blood samples from 1,380 women, 640 of whom went on to develop breast cancer in the following years. Scientists discovered that high levels of methylation, which cause the molecular modification of the gene, doubled the odds of developing the disease.
‘We know that genetic variation contributes to a person’s risk of disease,’ said Dr James Flanagan, from the Department of Surgery and Cancer at Imperial College London and co-author of the study. ‘With this new study we can now also say that epigenetic variation, or differences in how genes are modified, also has a role. We hope that this research is just the beginning of our understanding about the epigenetic component of breast cancer risk and in the coming years we hope to find many more examples of genes that contribute to a person’s risk.’
It is estimated that this test could be available in five to ten years.
Photo via Midland Fertility
Brennan, K., Garcia-Closas, M., Orr, N., Fletcher, O., Jones, M., Ashworth, A., Swerdlow, A., Thorne, H., , ., Riboli, E., Vineis, P., Dorronsoro, M., Clavel-Chapelon, F., Panico, S., Onland-Moret, N., Trichopoulos, D., Kaaks, R., Khaw, K., Brown, R., & Flanagan, J. (2012). Intragenic ATM Methylation in Peripheral Blood DNA as a Biomarker of Breast Cancer Risk Cancer Research, 72 (9), 2304-2313 DOI: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-11-3157
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