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Last Updated: Thursday, 14 June 2007, 23:01 GMT 00:01 UK
Family cancer worries 'justified'
breast cancer
Screening can pick up cancer early
Over half of those concerned about a strong family history of cancer are right to be, a study has suggested.

Genetic assessment revealed 55% of those worried were deemed at increased risk of developing cancer compared to the average population.

The charity Macmillan Cancer Support, which carried out the work, said there was a real need for further genetic screening services.

Cancer tsar Professor Mike Richards said new services were planned.

Seven pilot centres across England carried out the checks on over 2,000 people and at least 55% were deemed to be at above-average genetic risk.

In some of the pilots, the percentage of people assessed at above-average risk was even higher.

Screening services

Glyn Purland of Macmillan said the results showed there was "a real need for developing further genetic screening services that offer risk assessment and support services for people with a family history of cancer."

He said: "Recognising people at risk with a family history of cancer means they can be offered support, regular screening or genetic testing to prevent cancer or detect it early on."

It can reassure those who do not need further monitoring.

There are several cancers of the same type
There are several cases of rare cancers
Members developed cancer before the age of 50
Members developed multiple cancer tumours (for example in both breasts)

Professor Mike Richards, National Cancer Director, said: "We now need to ensure that the learning from the pilots is rolled out into routine NHS services.

"We are working to ensure this happens, and the importance of this work is being taken into account as we develop the new Cancer Reform Strategy."

Certain types of cancers, including breast, ovarian, bowel, uterus and stomach cancer, are known to run in families.

Doctors can already check for certain genes strongly linked with cancers - such as the BRCA1 and BRCA2 breast cancer genes.


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