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Potential new indicator of breast cancer risk identified by latest study

In this study, researchers used blood samples collected several years before breast cancer development from two large UK cohorts of women – the MRC National Survey of Health and Development and the UK Collaborative Trial of Ovarian Cancer Screening. They looked at the DNA methylation signature from blood of those women with and without BRCA1 mutations. When this signature was applied to samples from both these groups, those women who developed non-hereditary cancers were found to have the same DNA methylation signature.

Professor Martin Widschwendter, the study’s lead author and head of the UCL Department of Women’s Cancer, says: “We identified an epigenetic signature in women with a mutated BRCA1 gene that was linked to increased cancer risk and lower survival rates. Surprisingly, we found the same signature in large cohorts of women without the BRCA1 mutation and it was able to predict breast cancer risk several years before diagnosis.”

UCL full press release