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Eight out of 10 people with cancer genes unaware about their risk

A study of over 50,000 people found that over 80% of them didn’t know to what extent they were genetically predisposed to cancer.

health Updated: Sep 23, 2018 14:18 IST
Press Trust of India
Press Trust of India
Press Trust of India
Cancer,Cancer risk,Cancer study
Once risk is identified, proven tools can be applied for early diagnosis and prevention of cancer. (Shutterstock)

More that 80% of those who are genetically predisposed to have cancer are unaware about their risk, a study of over 50,000 people has found.

In the absence of routine screening, most people only discover they carry cancer-associated variants in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes when that person or family members receive a cancer diagnosis.

“As a colleague said, it usually takes a tragedy for people to get tested,” said Michael Murray, professor at Yale University in the US.

“Our reliance on a documented personal or family history as a trigger to offer testing is not working. Hopefully, one day we can change that with effective DNA-based screening for everyone,” said Murray.

The mean age of subjects in the study was 60. Two hundred and sixty-seven of those screened possessed a BRCA risk variant, yet only 18% of them were aware they possessed this risk factor for cancer prior to being informed by the study.

Among the group of living BRCA-positive patients, 16.8% of them had a BRCA-associated cancer. In the small group of BRCA-positive patients who had died before the study’s conclusion, 47.8% of them had a BRCA-associated cancer.

“Once risk is identified, we can apply proven tools for early diagnosis and prevention, and we believe that the 31% difference in cancer incidence in these two groups is a window into an opportunity to decrease cancer and cancer deaths through genomic screening approaches,” Murray said.

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First Published: Sep 23, 2018 14:17 IST