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This week’s featured article

KYODO

Researchers have developed a method to assess the risk of breast or ovarian cancer through genetic checking that is 10 times cheaper than the current way, a Japanese scientific institute says.

The team, led by Itsuro Inoue, a professor at the National Institute of Genetics, said it has filed a patent for the new method, which could bring the cost, currently around ¥200,000 to ¥300,000 per person, down to about ¥20,000.

“If you have a family member or relative who had breast or ovarian cancer, the gene test can help you detect cancer early. Lower costs would allow more people to receive the test,” Inoue said Saturday.

The new method is able to check the DNA sequences of 96 people at the same time by using a cutting-edge DNA sequencer, which allows screening costs to be slashed.

Inoue’s team is aiming to achieve widespread use of the test in about two years and have it covered by the government-sponsored health insurance program.

The test examines BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, which work to protect against cancer. When defective, however, the genes fail to function properly, raising the risk of hereditary types of breast and ovarian cancer. Hereditary breast cancer accounts for some 5 to 10 percent of overall breast cancer cases.

The risk test examining the two genes is currently provided by a U.S. company via medical institutions, but a only limited number of women have taken the test due to the high costs involved.

With cooperation from Chiba University, the team examined nearly 400 women, including 11 patients with breast cancer, with the new method. As a result, it detected gene abnormality with a very high rate of accuracy, according to the institute.

Data compiled by the National Cancer Center shows that breast cancer is the most prevalent cancer among women in Japan, with around 70,000 being diagnosed with the disease every year.

With the newly developed method, Inoue hopes that increased use of the low-cost genetic checking will enable women and doctors to discover the risk and eventually prevent or detect hereditary breast and ovarian cancer at an early stage.

First published in The Japan Times on Feb. 14.

Warm up

One-minute chat about “women around me.”

Game

Collect words related to hospitals, e.g., doctor, health, bed.

New words

1) assess: to judge something’s value in some way, e.g., “The teacher assessed our performance during the term.”

2) sequence: a set of things next to each other in a fixed order, e.g., “Please explain the sequence of events. to us”

3) hereditary: passed from parent to children through genes, e.g., “Blue eyes are hereditary in her family.”

Guess the headline

New breast c_ _ _ _ _ test could bring about drastic drop in p_ _ _ _

Questions

1) How cheap will the new method for breast cancer testing be compared to the current one?

2) How many women are diagnosed with breast cancer every year in Japan?

3) What does professor Inoue hope the price drop will mean?

Let’s discuss the article

1) Do you have regular medical checkups?

2) Does the price of the test matter to you when you have a health check? What do you think is a fair price for a medical checkup that includes a breast cancer test?

3) What do you think are the most important ways to combat diseases such as breast cancer?

Reference

乳がんは早期発見によりそのリスクが大幅に減らせる病気ともいわれて いますが、いまだ多くの女性がそのリスクにさらされています。その理由 は早期発見に大切な検診料の高さにも起因するかもしれません。

健康はお金には代えがたいものではありますが、健康である間はその 確認のために多額のお金を使うことがもったいないと感じられることも あるでしょう。乳がん検診の大幅な受診料引き下げは、治療法の発展 とはまた違う形で女性たちの未来を明るく照らすものになるかも しれません。

朝の会に参加し、健康や医療について皆さんで話し合ってみましょう。

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