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J Intern Med. 2012 Apr;271(4):321-30. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2796.2012.02525.x.

Prevention of breast cancer in the context of a national breast screening programme.

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Genesis Prevention Centre and Nightingale Breast Screening Centre, University Hospital of South Manchester, UK.


Breast cancer is not only increasing in the west but also particularly rapidly in eastern countries where traditionally the incidence has been low. The rise in incidence is mainly related to changes in reproductive patterns and lifestyle. These trends could potentially be reversed by defining women at greatest risk and offering appropriate preventive measures. A model for this approach was the establishment of Family History Clinics (FHCs), which have resulted in improved survival in younger women at high risk. New predictive models of risk that include reproductive and lifestyle factors, mammographic density and measurement of risk-associated single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) may give more precise information concerning risk and enable better targeting for mammographic screening programmes and of preventive measures. Endocrine prevention using anti-oestrogens and aromatase inhibitors is effective, and observational studies suggest lifestyle modification may also be effective. However, referral to FHCs is opportunistic and predominantly includes younger women. A better approach for identifying older women at risk may be to use national breast screening programmes. Here were described pilot studies to assess whether the routine assessment of breast cancer risk is feasible within a population-based screening programme, whether the feedback and advice on risk-reducing interventions would be welcomed and taken up, and to consider whether the screening interval should be modified according to breast cancer risk.

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