Blood tests for breast cancer

How close are we to accurately predicting through a simple blood test for the risk of breast cancer?

Last week there was quite a media flurry about the possibility of a blood test for breast cancer after a press release from the Breast Cancer Campaign. It all steamed from a paper published by Cancer Research in February which highlighted that epigenetic changes could be associated with this form of cancer. The study found that in blood samples from 1,380 women at a high risk of breast cancer there was an association of DNA methylation in white blood cells and the chance of cancer development. The samples were taken at an average of 3 years before diagnosis.

It is still far too early to say we have one simple blood test to predict the risk of breast cancer, indeed this research only looked at a single gene and breast cancer can be triggered by many genetic changes. Hopefully this will lead to larger, genome-wide testing for breast cancer and the same methodology being applied to other cancers such as leukemias and lymphomas. Unfortunately these future applications are some time away, no matter what the media would like to claim.

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