Researchers developed a mathematical model to calculate breast cancer risk in women, based on family history and genetics. According to investigators, this model not only allows the identification of women at higher risk, but also facilitates “individualized, informed decision-making on prevention therapies and screening.”
The findings of the study, “BOADICEA: a comprehensive breast cancer risk prediction model incorporating genetic and nongenetic risk factors,” were published in Genetics in Medicine.
Breast cancer is the most prevalent type of cancer in women from the Western world. However, a large number of cases occur in a minority of women who are at higher risk. Therefore, finding new ways to identify these women to kick-start screening and prevention therapies is crucial.
Now, a team of researchers from the University of Cambridge, led by Antonis Antoniou, created a mathematical model called “Breast and Ovarian Analysis of Disease Incidence and Carrier Estimation Algorithm” (BOADICEA) that combines more than 300 genetic risk factors with other factors, including family history, weight, age at menopause, and alcohol consumption, to calculate breast cancer probability.
“This is the first time that anyone has combined so many elements into one breast cancer prediction tool. It could be a game changer for breast cancer because now we can identify large numbers of women with different levels of risk — not just women who are at high risk,” Antoniou said in a press release.
Taking all risk factors into consideration, the model predicts that women living in the U.K. have a 2.8-30.6% risk of developing breast cancer in their lifetime.
In addition, the model estimates that 14.7% of women have moderate risk (17-30%) of having breast cancer throughout their life, while 1.1% have high risk (more than 30%), according to the guidelines defined by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).
“This should help doctors to tailor the care they provide depending on their patients’ level of risk. For example, some women may need additional appointments with their doctor to discuss screening or prevention options and others may just need advice on their lifestyle and diet. We hope this means more people can be diagnosed early and survive their disease for longer, but more research and trials are needed before we will fully understand how this could be used,” Antoniou said.
Based on this model, the team is working on an online calculator for general practitioners to use. The tool is basically an online survey of breast cancer risk in which clinicians provide information regarding their patients’ family history, lifestyle, and genetic alterations.
“Research like this is hugely exciting because in the future it will enable us to offer much more tailored care, which will benefit patients and make best use of the services that we have available,” said Richard Roope, general practitioner expert at Cancer Research U.K.
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