Gene Markers for Cancer Risk

Main sites of metastases for some common cance...

Main sites of metastases for some common cancer types. Primary cancers are denoted by “…cancer” and their main metastasis sites are denoted by “…metastases”. List of included entries and references is found on main image page in Commons: (Photo credit: Wikipedia

In an article from March 2013, the Associated Press, Internationally, there are more than 100 institutions and 200,000 people taking part in genetic testing. Through this collaboration, dozens of signposts for disease in DNA have been found. The primary risks studied have been for breast, ovarian, and prostate cancer.

What does it mean for the average person?

There are genetic tests now, for instance, testing for BRCA gene mutation. If a woman tests positive, she has a higher risk for breast or ovarian cancer. These mega-collaborative studies may mean that one day there will be genetic tests that help identify a woman who has the most to gain from having a mammogram, and men who’d benefit most from PSA tests, and prostate biopsies. And, those tests may lead to genetic hints of new treatments.

The thinking behind these studies is if a person has a 20 percent risk of a certain type of cancer in their lifetime, genetic markers could identify those at higher risk, say 60 percent, or people who exceed 80 percent from those whose risk is 20-50 percent. The difference this could bring may mean someone choses to monitor their lower risk rather than opt for surgery as a preventative method (such as women having healthy breasts removed.)

The three markers found reveal hints about the biology of these cancers, and the hope is these underpinnings will pay off as better therapies the future. As studies go, this is encouraging, but more research is needed to see how helpful this would be in guiding a patient.


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