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Ounce of Prevention

Genome sequencing can help identify women at high risk of developing breast cancer and aid in personalizing strategies to try to prevent disease, say researchers from Stanford University School of Medicine in a paper appearing in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers, and Prevention.

Stanford's Alice Whittemore and her colleagues estimated the population distribution of breast cancer risk based on the allele frequencies and effect sizes of 86 variants linked to the disease. They then gauged how preventive efforts targeted at women with the highest risk of disease could mitigate that risk.

"The framework of our study was to ask how useful genome sequencing would be for targeting breast cancer prevention, assuming that genome sequencing were affordable and could be performed on every girl at birth," first author Weiva Sieh tells the Huffington Post. "In the best case scenario, we found we would be able to identify 70 percent of all future cases by targeting the top 25 percent of women [at risk]."

These women, HuffPo adds, could make modifications to their lifestyles — like exercising more, having children earlier in life, or breastfeeding their children longer — to reduce their disease risk.

"One of our main messages is that women who are at high risk have the most to gain from modifying lifestyle factors like maintaining a healthy weight or limiting alcohol and smoking," Sieh adds. "The protective effects of these healthy behaviors are multiplicative."