This week has seen the launch of M&S and Breast Cancer Now’s five year appeal to raise £13 million to fund the development of a new risk prevention model to calculate an individual person’s chance of developing breast cancer.
Thursday 1 October 2015      Research blog
Risk prediction – a £13 million target over five years

Here, Dr Sarah Hazell, Senior Research Manager of Insight and Innovation at Breast Cancer Now, explains more about the work the appeal is funding.

What exactly is this appeal?

The M&S appeal will be funding vital research into the development of the risk prediction model. This is a mathematical model (based on complex algorithms) that can accurately predict individual risk of breast cancer.

By incorporating all known biological, lifestyle and environmental factors that affect breast cancer risk, our aim is for this model to help identify an individual woman’s risk of developing the disease as accurately as possible.

Identifying these risk factors will determine how the model is further developed into a risk predictor tool available to all women in the future. For example, if genetic data is important, a blood test or a saliva test would be needed.

M&S’s five year appeal will help Breast Cancer Now achieve our aim to prevent 9,000 cases of breast cancer a year by 2025.

How long will this take?

We have been gathering data through the Generations Study for the past 10 years and this has already given us many insights into the causes of breast cancer. Our scientists plan to take this research and use it to create a risk prediction model to be ready within the next five years.

After the model is produced, we hope it will be made into a tool or test that women can take to find out their own unique risk of breast cancer, and crucially what they could do to reduce that risk.

What does this mean for me?

The tool or test will mean women are given accurate tailored information they can then choose to act upon, and we expect those actions to reduce the number of breast cancer cases.

This would mean never having to face the fear and uncertainty that can come with a breast cancer diagnosis or having to undergo treatment, which women who have experienced breast cancer will tell you can be very tough.

Deciding whether or not to take such a test would be very much a personal decision. Breast Cancer Now would want women to have all the information available to them so that they can make the best decision for them.

If the tool isn’t ready for a few years, what can I do in the meantime to help prevent breast cancer?

Many things affect our risk of developing breast cancer. Some of these things we can’t change, like the genes we inherit or getting older, but our lifestyles can play a part too. You can help to reduce the risk of breast cancer by limiting how much alcohol you drink, maintaining a healthy weight and being regularly physically active.

If you are worried that breast cancer runs in your family and that there might be an inherited genetic fault in your family, you can check out Breast Cancer Now’s Family History guidelines and speak to your GP to see if you are eligible to be tested for an inherited fault.

How are you planning to raise £13m?

A full calendar of activity will be happening over the five years in store and online, including exclusive products carrying a donation, employee fundraising and health information sharing.

The fundraising campaign is being kicked off with #showyourstrap which asks people to text to donate £3 along with a social media selfie. Seven women who have been affected by breast cancer in different ways are also helping to promote the campaign by modelling a new lingerie range, including a post-surgery bra that carries a donation and sharing their stories to raise awareness of the cause.

By offering people a range of opportunities to donate, we’re engaging as many people as we possibly can to make the £13 million fundraising goal and prevention model a reality. 

Be breast aware

Find out more about our Touch, Look, Check (TLC) guide.

About the author

Dr Sarah Hazell

Dr Sarah Hazell is Senior Manager of the Research Insight and Innovation team at Breast Cancer Now. 

She has a PhD in developmental biology and an abundance of experience communicating science to anyone who will listen.