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Last Updated: Friday, 14 December 2007, 08:55 GMT
Test to spot early breast cancer
Breast cancer cells
Breast cancer is the most common cancer among UK women
A blood test to detect breast cancer in its earliest stages could be made available in the UK next year.

Makers Norwegian life sciences company DiaGenic ASA say the test is designed to detect the disease even before symptoms become apparent.

It works by detecting abnormal patterns of gene activity which would not be found in healthy tissue.

Experts predict used alongside a mammogram it could be of particular benefit to younger women.

For such a test to be used widely it is important that both its accuracy and reliability are proven
Dr Sarah Rawlings
Breakthrough Breast Cancer

This is because breasts are denser when women are younger and therefore mammograms may not detect changes in the breast tissue.

Early trials suggest the new test can detect 88% of breast cancers. However, more work is still needed to prove that the test is reliable.

At present it is planned to make the test available privately, for between 200 and 300.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in the UK. Each year, there are over 44,600 new cases.

It accounts for almost one in three of all cancer cases in women, and the lifetime risk for breast cancer in women is one in nine.

National screening

Dr Emma Pennery, of the charity Breast Cancer Care, said any new way of improving detection rates for breast cancer would be a significant advance.

However, she said 80% of breast cancers were diagnosed in women aged 50 and over - and this group were already covered by the national screening programme.

In addition, younger women found to be at high risk of breast cancer, either through family history or because they carry the BRCA 1 or 2 gene, would receive annual scans to check for signs of the disease.

She said: "Regardless of age, it is vital that all women remain breast aware throughout their life by knowing how their breasts look and feel normally, and by reporting any changes direct to their GP."

Dr Sarah Rawlings, of the charity Breakthrough Breast Cancer, said: "New ways to improve early detection of breast cancer are to be encouraged because the earlier the disease is diagnosed and treated the better the chances of a successful outcome.

"For such a test to be used widely it is important that both its accuracy and reliability are proven.

"Although we know mammograms can be difficult to interpret in women with dense breast tissue - and this includes younger women - it's important to remember that breast cancer is rare in younger women."

Breast cancer targets 'failing'
12 Jul 07 |  Health

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