Breast cancer treatment and testing must be conducted on younger patients, according to a new study in the US, which found high-risk patients are being diagnosed almost eight years earlier than previous generations.
Women with a mutant variation of the BRCA gene, which the American Cancer Society (ACS) says increases their risk of developing breast cancer from 12 per cent to 60 per cent, are now being diagnosed at an average age of 42, 7.9 years earlier than their older relatives were.
Jennifer Litton, assistant professor in MD Anderson's Department of Breast Medical Oncology, said: "We actually might be seeing true anticipation; the phenotype or cancer coming out earlier per generation. This suggests more than the mutation could be involved, perhaps lifestyle and environmental factors are also coming into play."
The results will continue to affect how high-risk women - those with known BRCA mutations, or whose mothers or aunts have the mutation - are counselled and even screened in the future.
Breast cancer is currently the most common cancer in the UK and NHS figures suggest approximately 46,000 new incidences in the UK each year. Although it mostly affects women over 50, younger women are also at risk.