GPs could soon have access to an online tool that predicts a woman’s risk of breast cancer.
The calculator is the most comprehensive method yet to predict the risk of the disease, according to the Cancer Research UK study.
Experts have designed a way to calculate a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer by combining information on her family history and genetics with lifestyle factors including age; weight; menopause; how much she drinks; and if she’s on hormone replacement therapy.
The online tool uses an algorithm to compare these factors, including 300 different genetic indicators of breast cancer, to calculate a woman’s risk.
Doctors are prompted to answer a series of online questions about their patient, including the above risk factors, to determine their chance of developing cancer.
Some GPS, practice nurses and genetic counsellors are trialling the calculator. If successful Cancer Research UK hopes it could be rolled-out across the country.
Lead author Professor Antonis Antoniou, of the University of Cambridge, said: “This is the first time that anyone has combined so many elements into one breast cancer prediction tool.
“It could be a game changer for breast cancer because now we can identify large numbers of women with different levels of risk – not just women who are at high risk.
“This should help doctors to tailor the care they provide depending on their patients’ level of risk.
“For example, some women may need additional appointments with their doctor to discuss screening or prevention options and others may just need advice on their lifestyle and diet.
“We hope this means more people can be diagnosed early and survive their disease for longer, but more research and trials are needed before we will fully understand how this could be used.”
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK, with nearly 55,000 women diagnosed each year.
Cancer Research UK hopes the tools like this could one day be used to tailor breast cancer screening depending on a woman’s individual risk.
Dr Richard Roope, Cancer Research UK’s GP, said: “Research like this is hugely exciting because in the future it will enable us to offer much more tailored care which will benefit patients and make best use of the services that we have available.”