A new genetic test to predict breast cancer risk among those with a family history of the disease is set to be offered to patients within six months, thanks to research partly funded by Prevent Breast Cancer.

Genetic Test Prevent Breast Cancer Charity UK

The test, which was developed by Professor Gareth Evans, professor of clinical genetics, and his team at Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust (MFT), will accurately predict breast cancer risk in women who do not test positive for BRCA1/2 gene mutations, and refine the risk level in those who do carry the mutation.

Commonly known as the ‘Angelina gene’, due to the actress’ much-publicised experience and the subsequent Angelina Effect, BRCA1/2 can increase lifetime risk of developing breast cancer by up to 90 per cent.

The new genetic test, research for which was also funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), assesses breast cancer risk based on genetic variations (single nucleotide polymorphisms, SNPs) in an individual’s DNA. Researchers found that mutations of 18 SNPs were indicative of breast cancer risk for women who did not carry BRCA1/2 mutations. These were found to have minimal effect in isolation, but when combined with one another could increase or decrease breast cancer risk considerably.

This research is part of our flagship study, Predicting Risk of Cancer At Screening (PROCAS), which included a SNP study of 10,000 women – 455 of which – went on to develop breast cancer, therefore confirming the accuracy of the predictions. Of these 455 breast cancers, 35 per cent were moderate and high risk.

Here at Prevent Breast Cancer, this test means we will be able to better predict a woman’s risk of breast cancer, and therefore offer the appropriate advice and support, rather than a ‘one size fits all approach’. The next step will be to look at assessing risk among those who do not have a family history and we’re confident that, in doing so, we will reach our goal of a breast cancer-free future.

We’ve had a few enquiries regarding this research so have some questions and answers below:

1.The new test being discussed, who is it available to?

It will be available to women who are high enough risk who attend the family history clinic at Wythenshawe or Genetics at St Mary’s

2. When will it be available to this group?

In 6 months

3. If someone doesn’t carry a BRCA mutation but has a strong family history of the disease, can they receive the test?

Yes in fact it may be even better in this group

4. Can the test help if someone is a BRCA1 carrier and is still to make a decision about having a hysterectomy?

We don’t usually advise hysterectomy but removal of at least the ovaries and tubes. The ovarian prediction test is not quite ready yet

5. When will it be available to the whole population?

Hopefully in the next 1-2 years

6. If someone would like to be tested, who should they get in touch with to arrange this?

Firstly wait at least 6 months. If you have a strong family history of breast cancer you can then ask your GP to refer you but this may only be possible in Greater Manchester South Cheshire and Lancashire