Twenty-four previously unknown mutations that raise a woman's risk of developing breast cancer have been identified by scientists. The 'ground-breaking' findings [February 28] provide an answer to thousands of victims of whom the disease runs in their family.
Cancer Research UK states that fewer than three per cent of cancers are caused by an inherited faulty gene. It says there are four known genes that can raise the risk of breast cancer, including the BRCA gene - famously carried by by Angelina Jolie.
But the new discovery, led by Professor Melissa Southey, could potentially extend that to 28, if further research confirms the findings. She said: 'For the majority of women who undergo genetic testing, there is no explanation for their breast cancer predisposition.
'This ground-breaking work is not only helpful for women from families with many cases of breast cancer. 'It will improve breast cancer risk prediction for all women, and pave the way for the development of epigenetic therapeutics for breast cancer.'
They discovered the epigenetic changes can be passed down through generations without changing the DNA that makes the genes.
The study is one of the first to scan the genome for places where DNA methylation is heritable, and is the first to apply this to familial breast cancer.
Editor's note: Read the full study