American National Cancer Institute creates a breast cancer risk model

Researchers at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, US, have produced a statistical formula that calculates a woman’s risk of developing breast, ovarian and endometrial cancers across a 10 and 20 year period. 

The modeling involves using age, number of children, diet, lifestyle weight, use of contraception and whether the subject has had hormone treatment. The idea is that the results for breast cancer, for example, can help select the patients doctors most think should go for, now controversial, breast cancer screening mammograms (PLOS Medicine) 

Researchers involved 122,000 women in the trial and found that the risk of developing breast cancer in women older than 50 ranged from 1.57 per cent to 21.78 per cent over a 10 year period; and from 3.64 per cent to 35.11 per cent over 20 years depending upon the woman modeled. 

Most importantly, particularly for breast cancer, the results were very accurate. However, in the UK, the NHS Cancer Screening Programme said it had ‘no immediate plans to use mathematical models to help identify patients who need more regular screening’. 

NCI team leader, Dr Ruth Pfeiffer said: “These models might assist in clinical decision making related to the risks of these cancers. Using risk models to select individuals for screening or other interventions usually requires high discriminatory accuracy. Well calibrated risk models, even those with modest discriminatory accuracy, have several public health applications. These include designing cancer prevention trials, assessing the absolute burden of disease n the population and in sub groups and gauging the potential absolute reductions in risk from preventive strategies.” 

At CANCERactive our view is that anything that gets women closer to an accurate diagnosis, and involves using less screening mammograms, has to be a good thing.


 

July - Oct 2013 Cancer Watch
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