Genetic tool can identify Asian women at higher risk of breast cancer

 Globe  Credit: Sam Albury on Unsplash

A genetic study in Asian women, led by Malaysian scientists in collaboration with Singapore and the University of Cambridge, has revealed that a genetic tool developed to help assess breast cancer risk in European women also works in Asian women. This could help address the rising incidence of breast cancer in Asia.

The tool, called a Polygenic Risk Score (PRS), separates people into different risk groups based on their genetic sequence to predict their future risk of developing breast cancer. The results can empower women to decide which screening and prevention is right for them, and help reduce inefficiency, unnecessary cost, and even possible harm caused by over-diagnosis. 

This is the first large study of the PRS in an Asian population. Previously, Asian studies were nearly six times smaller than studies in European women, and due to lack of data in Asians it was unclear if PRSs are effective in predicting breast cancer risk in non-European women. 

“We have been developing a model for predicting breast cancer risk in European women that includes the PRS and this is now approved for clinical use. This study is the first big step towards enabling the use of such tools in the clinical management of women of Asian ancestry,” said Professor Antonis Antoniou at the University of Cambridge’s Department of Public Health and Primary Care, and co-lead of the study. 

Through the significant increase in data from Malaysia and Singapore, PRSs have been shown to help identify more accurately who is at high risk of breast cancer. The results suggest that only 30% of Malaysian and Singaporean women have a predicted risk similar to that of European women, and that using the PRS accurately identifies these high-risk women. The study is published in the journal Nature Communications

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Credit: Sam Albury on Unsplash

Reproduced courtesy of the University of Cambridge


The University of Cambridge is acknowledged as one of the world's leading higher education and research institutions. The University was instrumental in the formation of the Cambridge Network and its Vice- Chancellor, Professor Stephen Toope, is also the President of the Cambridge Network.

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