BRCA testing for women over 30 could save thousands of lives


A study at Queen Mary University London has revealed that screening all women over 30 for BRCA genetic mutations could prevent tens of thousands of cases of breast and ovarian cancer.

Published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, the study estimates the impact of screening all 27 million women over 30 in the UK. 

Their findings reveal that broadening the current testing strategy would be cost effective for the NHS, preventing 17,500 more ovarian cancers and 64,500 more breast cancers. This would result in 12,300 more women’s lives being saved.

Currently, only women and men with a significant family history of breast and ovarian cancer are eligible for genetic testing. However, up to half of women with ovarian cancer who are BRCA+ have no family history at all, so are missed with current testing criteria. Population testing would ensure these women don’t slip through the net and can take action to prevent ovarian and breast cancer before it occurs.

Katherine Taylor, Chief Executive of Ovarian Cancer Action, said: “Ovarian cancer has very poor survival rates and a woman dies every two hours. We welcome any progress that increases opportunities to prevent the disease.

“While today’s news is encouraging we are still a long way from whole population testing, so if you are concerned about your family history we would encourage you to take action and discuss genetic testing with your GP. ”

The decision to undergo genetic testing is a highly personal one and the potential impact on individuals and their families should not be overlooked. For more information on hereditary ovarian cancer, genetic testing and cancer prevention strategies, visit our BRCA Hub.