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'Most women' back breast cancer screening based on gene risk

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The majority of women would back the idea of more frequent screening if they were at higher genetic risk of developing breast cancer, suggest survey results.

More than 940 women from across the UK were asked for their views on the possibility of tailoring breast screening to people’s genetic risk.

The research, published today in the journal The Breast, was funded by Cancer Research UK and The Eve Appeal, a charity raising awareness and funding research in gynaecological cancers.

The survey found 65.8% of the women surveyed supported the idea of varying screening frequency on the basis of genetic risk.

“Women at increased risk of cancer deserve more than the one-size fits all approach”

Athena Lamnisos

In addition, 85.4% were willing to have more frequent breast screening if they were found to be at higher risk, and 58.8% were willing to have less frequent screening if at lower risk.

The findings are designed to inform views on any future changes to the NHS breast screening programme, which offers routine mammograms based on age, rather than genetic risk. 

Study author Dr Susanne Meisel, research psychologist at University College London, said: “Looking at whether genetic risk could be used to tailor and improve the breast screening programme is still at an early stage, but it’s useful to find out now what the public might think about this idea.

“It’s interesting there was less support for the idea of less frequent screening for people at lower risk of cancer,” she said.

“This could be because many women tend to see screening as beneficial or feel they have a right to screening, or some women might take a ‘better safe than sorry’ approach to cancer screening which may make them more accepting of potential harm from it,” she added.

Women who took part in the study were asked five questions to assess what they believed their risk of developing breast cancer was, and their attitude to genetic testing and using genetic risk to vary screening frequency.

Athena Lamnisos, chief executive of the Eve Appeal, said: “This study shows that women were positive about the idea of adjusting the frequency of mammography screening in line with personal genetic risk.”

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Readers' comments (2)

  • Careful . . .there is not enough support to reduce screening for those at low risk, so I hope this is not what it's about.

    Breast cancer is so common that women need the option of screening tests. There could possibly be work on making screening tests more accurate.

    Also, what about ovarian cancer? Less common, but not noticed until it is almost too late.

    And what about heart attacks? Very common, but ECG's are now shown to be unreliable for women, so what development is going into this problem?

    There should be more women-centred screening, not less. Definitely still a man's world!

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  • Model has filthy finger nails. Yuk!

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