One in seven women will develop breast cancer if present health trends continue, experts warned today.
A study found the risk to women who carry gene mutations which can lead to the disease has increased dramatically in the last 60 years.
One in 10 women in the UK currently develop breast cancer by the age of 80 but researchers feared this may increase to one in seven by 2024 unless lifestyle changes are made.
Professor Gareth Evans led the study of 1,442 women who carried the high-risk genes BRCA1 and BRCA2, on behalf of the Genesis Breast Cancer Prevention Centre, based in Wythenshawe, Manchester. Around one in 500 people are said to carry the gene mutations which give a lifetime risk of breast cancer in women of up to 85-90 per cent.
The consultant in medical genetics at St Mary's Hospital and Christie Hospital, both in Manchester, said: "This rise in the incidence of breast cancer is reflected in the general population.
"In 1984 only one in 13 women were projected to develop breast cancer in their lifetime. In 2004 this reached one in 10 and, if the rates rise as they are currently doing so, it is predicted that by the year 2024 one in seven to eight women will develop breast cancer by 80 years of age in the UK.
"That will translate into an extra 4,000 deaths, unless further improvements in treatments occur."
The study showed that women carrying faults in the high-risk genes born prior to 1920 only had a 7.5 per cent chance of breast cancer by 40 years of age. Women born after 1960 had a risk of up to 40 per cent.
His research, published today in the BMC Cancer journal, suggested the rising trend could be reversed by altering lifestyle.
Prof Evans recommended women should plan families earlier, avoid long term use of female hormones in contraceptives and HRT, and embark on a healthy lifestyle by exercising and maintaining a healthy weight.
The Genesis Appeal, a breast cancer prevention charity, has funded the purpose-built £14 million centre in Wythenshawe which brings together medical experts to conduct diagnosis, education and research into the disease.Reuse content