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Genomic study identifies 12 new genetic traits associated with ovarian cancer risk

07 April 2017

Genomic study

New research by an international team of more than 400 scientists, including Dr James Flanagan, researcher at the Ovarian Cancer Action Research Centre, has identified 12 new genetic variations associated with epithelial ovarian cancer risk. This brings the total of known genetic variants to 34.

Epithelial ovarian cancer (EOC) forms in the tissue that covers the ovaries and is the most common type of ovarian cancer. Genetic makeup accounts for around one third of a woman’s risk of developing it.

The new study, published in Nature Genetics, was conducted as part of a large genomic study looking at almost 450,000 samples in an attempt to identify the genetic background for most common cancers.

James said: “This new discovery allows us to combine all the genetic information in a computer model that will provide a more accurate estimate of what an individual’s risk of developing ovarian cancer is. 

“As a result, we can begin to address further issues, such as what women who know they are at risk can do to prevent the disease.

“We also need to look at how these genetic traits influence the biology of ovaries in such a way that it leads to cancer. The more we learn about the biology of the disease, the more options we might have to prevent it.”

Katherine Taylor, Chief Executive at Ovarian Cancer Action, said: "This is an important study giving scientists a better picture of genetic variations and how they affect a woman’s risk of ovarian cancer. We already know some options for potentially reducing risk, such as risk-reducing surgery for women with BRCA gene mutations, but the more information we have the better chance there is of identifying further risk-reducing factors."

Visit our BRCA hub for more information on genetic mutations and hereditary risk of ovarian cancer.