breast cancerScientists have discovered another 15 genetic ‘hot-spots’ that can increase a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer, according to research.

Scientists compared tiny variations in the genetic make-up of more than 120,000 women of European ancestry, with and without breast cancer, and identified 15 new variations – called single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) – that are linked to a higher risk of the disease.

This new discovery - published in Nature Genetics - means that more than 90 SNPs associated with breast cancer have now been revealed through research.

On average, one in every eight women in the UK will develop breast cancer at some stage in their lives. The researchers estimate that about five per cent of women have enough genetic variations to double their risk of developing breast cancer – giving them a risk of approximately one in four.

A much smaller group of women, around 0.7%, have genetic variations that make them three times more likely to develop breast cancer, giving them a risk of around one in three. It’s hoped that these genetic markers can be used to help identify high-risk women and could lead to improved cancer screening and prevention.

Study author Professor Doug Easton, professor of genetic epidemiology at the University of Cambridge, said: “Our study is another step towards untangling the breast cancer puzzle. As well as giving us more information about how and why a higher breast cancer risk can be inherited, the genetic markers we found can help us to target screening and cancer prevention measures at those women who need them the most.

“The next bit of solving the puzzle involves research to understand more about how genetic variations work to increase a woman’s risk. And we’re sure there are more of these variations still to be discovered.”