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New Research May Lead To Better Cancer Screenings

Matt Pressberg |
March 27, 2013 | 6:54 p.m. PDT

Executive Producer

DNA markers could be used to develop more effective cancer screenings. (Micah Baldwin/Flickr)
DNA markers could be used to develop more effective cancer screenings. (Micah Baldwin/Flickr)
Scientists in England have identified more than 80 genetic markers that indicate an increased inherited risk of ovarian, breast or prostate cancer, and hope to use this knowledge to develop an effective DNA screening test for these three forms of the disease within five years.

As the BBC reports, researchers at the University of Cambridge and the Institute of Cancer Research in London compared the DNA of 200,000 people, half with cancer, to locate common genetic abnormalities they could link to each cancer. Each one added a marginal increase in cancer risk, but some of the men studied who possessed many of the markers were associated with more than four times the cancer risk of men without them.

According to the American Cancer Society, about one in six men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer over the course of their lives. About one in eight women will develop breast cancer. Ovarian cancer is comparatively rarer but still affects nearly one out of every 72 women. A better way to identify those with elevated risk of developing one of these cancers may help doctors to spot cases early when treatment is generally more effective.

Doug Easton, the study’s lead author, said the scientific community is “on the verge” of using these findings to improve breast cancer screening and to come up with an effective process for prostate cancer. The Cambridge and Institute of Cancer Research team also hopes to learn more about how the cancers develop in the human body.

The study’s full findings were released in a series of articles in the Nature Genetics journal.

Reach Executive Producer Matt Pressberg here.



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