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One Test to Find All Four

Through a new four-year study announced Monday, European researchers aim to determine whether gauging certain genomic alterations, epigenetic changes, and bacterial infections can inform a woman's risk of developing four cancers, the Guardian reports.

Through this one test, which the researchers liken to a cervical smear, they hope to be able to tell a woman's personal risk of developing cervical, ovarian, uterine, or aggressive breast cancer. These four cancers, the Guardian notes, account for nearly half of those affecting women.

"At present, we can predict breast and ovarian cancers in women who carry the genetic defects BRCA 1 or 2, and those women tend to do well, but they only represent one in 10 of these cancers," University College London's Martin Widschwendter tells the Guardian. "What's significant about this test is that it will identify a lot more of the other 90 [percent], and we can then recommend either intensive screening or hormonal drugs or surgery to reduce the chances of cancer developing."

UCL is leading the study along with more than a dozen partners across Europe.