Most women believe that those with a high risk of developing breast cancer should be given more screening, a study published in journal The Breast.
The study, performed by researchers at University College London, surveyed over 940 women and found that 85 per cent backed additional screening for breast disorders for those who are more genetically susceptible to developing breast cancer. The study also found that 66 per cent of respondents thought that adjusting the frequency of based on risk factors was a good idea. However, 60 per cent of women responded negatively to suggestions that women with a lower risk should be screened less.
Dr Susanne Meisel, the study's co-author, and a research psychologist at University College London, said: 'Looking at whether genetic risk could be used to tailor and improve the breast screening programme is still at an early stage, but it's useful to find out now what the public might think about this idea. Our study showed that, overall, women seem to support it.'
The respondents were asked five questions to assess what they believed their risk of developing breast cancer was, and their attitude to genetic testing and using genetic risk to vary screening frequency. Limited information was provided on how a modified screening programme might work, and no information was given on the current screening programme.
Dr Meisel added: 'It's interesting there was less support for the idea of less frequent screening for people at lower risk of cancer. This could be because many women tend to see screening as beneficial or feel they have a right to screening, or some women might take a 'better safe than sorry' approach to cancer screening which may make them more accepting of potential harm from it.'
Breast cancer screen is thought to save an estimated 1300 lives each year, due to the early diagnosis and detection of tumours. However, concern has been raised at the possibility of 'overdiagnosis', where a patient is treated unnecessarily for a benign anomaly that would not have harmed them.
Jessica Kirby, senior health information manager at Cancer Research UK, said: 'Breast screening saves lives, but it also has risks. One suggestion to try to maximise the benefit and reduce the risk is to tailor screening more effectively to people's risk of breast cancer, but more research is needed to show whether this approach will be effective or possible.'