World-first screening for cancer risk

The lives of countless young Australians could be saved by the world’s first DNA screening study that can detect an increased risk of certain cancers and heart disease.

Monash University in Melbourne will lead a national screening program of at least 10,000 people between the ages of 18 and 40, who will be tested for genes that increase the risk of certain types of cancer and heart disease that often go unnoticed.

Supported by researchers and clinicians across the country, DNA Screen will identify people with BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene variants that carry an increased risk of hereditary breast and ovarian cancer in women.

These genes are also linked to breast and prostate cancer in men, but not as strongly.

Men and women who carry DNA variants in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes can also pass them on to their children.

The test is free and involves placing a saliva sample in a tube received by post and returning it in a stamped envelope.

Researchers, who recruit young people through social media, say screening could ultimately save countless lives.

“We expect to identify about one in 75 people at high risk of these diseases,” said Jane Tiller, co-leader of the national project at Monash University.

“High-risk people won’t necessarily have the disease, but identifying the risk before symptoms appear helps prevent it through regular checkups, medications or surgery to reduce the risk. It could save his life. . “

Professor Paul Lacaze, of Monash University’s School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, said the tests will enable young people to make more informed decisions about their health.

“We hope to identify people at risk while they are young and healthy, not after the fact,” he said.

“For some people, it could save their lives through early detection and prevention of cancer and heart disease. Thanks to prevention, it will also save enormous costs for the health system in Australia ”.

DNA Screen, made possible by a $ 2.97 million grant from the federal government’s Medical Research Future Fund, is available to all Australians between the ages of 18 and 40.

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