Fertility authority may allow cancer screening

In collaboration with the Press Association

Women with a family history of cancer may be allowed to have their embryos screened to ensure that they do not pass on a genetic tendency for the disease.

The suggestion was contained in a report by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), which regulates fertility procedures.

The authority has recommended that screening should be extended to include BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, which have been linked to both breast and ovarian cancers.

It would also include screening for mutations in the HNPCC gene, which has been linked to colon cancer.

The HFEA has not previously licensed screening for genes which do not lead to a person definitely developing a disease, but greatly increase their risk of it.

BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes are thought to boost the risks of breast cancer by 80 per cent and ovarian cancer by 40 per cent, while HNPCC mutations are thought to carry an 80 per cent risk of colon cancer.

Read the HFEA statement