A major new study, published today in Nature and Nature Genetics, has identified 72 new inherited genetic variants that contribute to the risk of developing breast cancer, which could help scientists understand why some women are predisposed to the disease.
The study – involving 550 researchers from around 300 different institutions in six continents – analysed genetic data from 275,000 women, including from the Breast Cancer Now Generations Study, which is one of the world’s largest prospective cohort studies into the causes of breast cancer, following more than 113,000 UK women.
Breast cancer is caused by complex interactions between a large number of genetic variants and other factors including our lifestyle, with this study now bringing the number of known variants from 107 to 179 – around a 60% increase.
Baroness Delyth Morgan, Chief Executive at Breast Cancer Now, said:
“This is another exciting step forward in our understanding of the genetic causes of breast cancer. These gene changes now have the potential to be incorporated into existing models to more accurately predict an individual’s risk, and to improve both prevention and early detection of the disease.
“Crucially, the discovery of ten new genetic variants that predispose women to ER-negative breast cancer could be particularly important. This form of the disease cannot be treated with hormone therapies and that these findings could lead to better prevention, earlier detection and possibly even more effective treatments for these patients is very promising.
“Amid increasing incidence, we need to do much more to prevent breast cancer. We now eagerly await further studies to unpick why these variants increase a person’s risk and to understand whether they could be added to existing risk models to improve the way we prevent, predict and detect the disease in the clinic.”