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Scientists in Cambridge say they could be only five years away from delivering a routine test that tells us how likely we are to get common cancers.
It follows their discovery of more genetic causes of the disease.
And they hope that by understanding the causes of cancer better, they may get closer to discovering cures, as Elodie Harper reports.
Elodie Harper speaks to Cancer Research UK scientist Professor Doug Easton on what the new test for genetic risks of cancer could mean.
Research by Cambridge scientists could lead to routine tests for patients genetic risk of cancer within five years.
The study compared the DNA of more than 100,000 cancer patients with a similarly sized sample from the general population.
They used microchip technology capable of identifying more than 200,000 genetic variants, some of which were suspected of being linked to cancer.
More than 1,000 scientists from 130 institutions in Europe and the US took part in the Collaborative Oncological Gene-environment Study (Cogs).
Dr Harpal Kumar, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, which co-funded the research, said:
GPs could be routinely testing patients for genetic risk of cancer within five years following a landmark study by Cambridge scientists.
The biggest investigation of its kind ever carried out has greatly multiplied the number of known genetic markers linked to breast, prostate and ovarian cancer.
In future, the results may make it possible to single out individuals with a potentially lethal hand of genetic cards using a simple saliva test.
They can then be monitored closely for the first signs of developing cancer, or - in the most high risk cases - be offered preventative treatment.
Experts believe the cheap and easy tests could be conducted in family doctors' surgeries.
Samples would initially be sent off to laboratory specialists, but eventually GPs could be doing the analysis themselves.