Julia Bradbury: Breast Cancer and Me – SNP Tests explained by Lester Barr MBE

Author: Lester Barr MBE - Prevent Breast Cancer Chairman, Co-Founder and Breast Surgeon - April 29, 2022

Julia Bradbury’s ITV Documentary mentions a SNP test. But what does that mean?


In her emotional and very personal documentary about surgery for breast cancer, Julia Bradbury describes having a new test called a SNP test. Below you can find out more about SNPs from Breast Surgeon and Prevent Breast Cancer Chairman and Co-founder, Lester Barr MBE.


What are SNPs?

SNPs (pronounced ‘snip’) are tiny DNA fragments, and there are over 300 of them that can influence risk of breast cancer. For Julia, her test result was helpful in deciding not to have a double mastectomy.


The really important thing about SNP tests is that they work even if there is no history of breast cancer in your family. Prevent Breast Cancer has been working on their development for several years. The test works best when combined with a mammogram breast density test and an analysis of an individuals background and lifestyle. This is because most breast cancers are not caused just by genes, but by a combination of genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors. 


Are SNPs tests available on the NHS?

At present SNP testing is not available on the NHS. So what steps need to be taken to get us there? Prevent Breast Cancer has run a large study called PROCAS demonstrating that SNP testing can improve the NHS breast screening programme, by predicting which women are at particular risk. This could lead to a smarter screening programme targeted at high risk individuals. The next step will be a “real world” trial of the test to see how effective it is in women over 50, making sure it is cost effective for the NHS.


 How could SNPs prevent breast cancer?

SNP testing also has great potential to reduce breast cancer in young women – those who develop the disease before the age of 50 when routine screening starts. Prevent Breast Cancer would therefore like to trial SNP tests in women starting at age 30 or 35. This could give early warning to women at risk even when there is no cancer in the family. To make it effective for the NHS we would need a new clinical trial as the next step, using SNP testing alongside a breast density test in younger women. In addition, the SNP test results do vary depending on your ethnic background and we do need to look specifically at SNPs in ethnic minority populations as a vital next step.

How to support this vital research

For all this to become possible, we continue to need your valuable support! To help us keep funding our ground-breaking and vitally important genetic research, you can donate directly to our research projects. Learn even more about the SNPS Prevent Breast Cancer funded research, as highlighted by Julia, here.

More information on SNPs from Sacha Howell



Prevent Breast Cancer is the only UK charity entirely dedicated to the prediction and prevention of breast cancer – we’re committed to freeing the world from the disease altogether. Unlike many cancer charities, we’re focused on preventing, rather than curing. Promoting early diagnosis, screening and lifestyle changes, we believe we can stop the problem before it starts. And being situated at the only breast cancer prevention centre in the UK, we’re right at the front-line in the fight against the disease.

Join us today and help us create a future free from breast cancer. If you have any questions or concerns, email info@preventbreastcancer.org.uk today.