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A New Marker for Breast Cancer

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Researchers at Imperial College London have discovered a new biomarker for breast cancer risk, reports The Guardian's Ben Quinn. In a new study published in Cancer Research, the researchers analyzed blood samples from 1,380 women, 640 of whom later developed breast cancer, Quinn says. They found a strong link between mutations in a white blood cell gene called ATM and risk in those 1,380 women. The researchers looked for evidence of methylation, and found that the women with the highest levels of methylation in ATM were twice as likely to develop breast cancer as women with low methylation levels, Quinn says. "On average, the blood tests were carried out three years before diagnosis. In some cases they pre-dated the discovery of breast cancer by up to 11 years," he adds. "The results were especially clear in blood samples from women under the age of 60." This research is just the beginning of scientists' understanding of the role of epigenetic mechanisms in breast cancer risk, senior author James Flanagan says. This study may also lead to the development of a blood test to help assess early breast cancer risk, Flanagan adds.

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