Scientists have pinpointed a rare gene variant that increases a woman’s risk of developing ovarian cancer six-fold. The discovery will lead to new diagnostic tests to identify the cancer earlier and provides better information to help doctors choose targeted anti-cancer drugs.
Ovarian cancer can develop without many clear symptoms and is the fifth most common cancer in women. In the UK, 6,500 cases are diagnosed every year and, of those, almost 4,000 end in death.
In the latest study, scientists found that, in around 60 cases of ovarian cancer every year in the UK, the women had faults in a gene called RAD51D. Anyone who inherits a faulty version of this gene, they calculated, therefore had a one in 11 chance of developing ovarian cancer, compared with one in 70 for the general population.