“A genetic test could help predict breast cancer many years before it develops,” the Daily Mail has today reported. The newspaper says the test is based around identifying a type of DNA change called methylation, which is reportedly caused by “exposure to environmental factors such as hormones, radiation, alcohol, smoking and pollution”.
The research behind this news was a large study looking at how breast cancer risk might be linked to the levels of chemicals attached to certain sections of our DNA. Researchers analysed historic blood samples from over 1,300 women, some of whom had breast cancer and some who did not. They were interested in looking at a particular gene in white blood cells, comparing patterns of methylation between the two groups of women. They found that women with the highest levels of methylation had an 89% increase in the odds of developing breast cancer compared with women with the least modification. The researchers therefore concluded that methylation on the surface of the gene could potentially serve as a marker for breast cancer risk. They added that further research may identify similar markers.