Detecting cancer in its early stages or identifying individuals who are at an increased risk of developing the disease significantly improves the possibility of treatment and prognosis.

Keeping this prospect in mind, researchers from Uppsala University have discovered that breast cells that are seemingly healthy contain certain genetic anomalies that might be associated with an increased likelihood of non-familial breast cancer.

Identification Of Breast Cancer – Statistics And Current Scenario

In the West, about one out of every 10 women is likely to develop breast cancer at any stage during her life. Mostly the disease is sporadic – not hereditary and caused by mutations being accumulated in the woman’s lifetime.

Detecting the disease early is vital for treatment to be successful. Sporadic cases of breast cancer are usually detected by women themselves, mostly as a lump in the breast or during mammography examinations.

As compared to familial breast cancer, which involves the analysis of a few genes specifically related to the disease, there is currently no effective method to predict who is at a higher risk for sporadic breast cancer.

Now, recent findings from an international group of researchers led by Professor Jan Dumanski at Uppsala University have demonstrated that genetic mutations in seemingly healthy breast cells could be linked to an increased likelihood of developing sporadic breast cancer.

What Study Revealed

The team examined tissue samples taken from areas far away from a tumor. These samples were taken simultaneously to the removal of the breast tumor. The tissue samples did not contain any tumor cells, and completely resembled normal, healthy breast tissue when viewed under the microscope.

However, DNA analysis of the tissue revealed certain genetic aberrations that were commonly seen in well-known cancer genes. This shows that sporadic breast cancer develops in a progressive manner, taking many years, and eventually forming a tumor.

The genetic mutations seen in these healthy tissues make up a genetic ‘signature’, indicating an increased risk for developing non-familial breast cancer. This information could play a crucial role in improving current diagnostic techniques.

Hopes For Development

The altered genes express a mutated protein pattern on the surface of cells, which could be helpful in detecting these particular cells. This opens doors for developing more effective diagnostic methods for identifying women at risk for developing sporadic breast cancer even before the tumor is formed, and prior to being detected by, say, mammography”, concludes Jan Dumanski, Department of Immunology, Genetics and Pathology. The results of the international research have been published in the journal Genome Research.