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Combined MRI and mammography is the best method of detecting breast cancer in patients with a high genetic risk, a new study reveals.

The researchers said they had submitted the results to NICE and asked for fast-tracked guidelines on the role of MRI in screening.

The study, published online by The Lancet this week and presented at the conference, found MRI was nearly twice as sensitive as X-ray mammography in detecting breast cancer in high-risk women. MRI identified 77 per cent of the tumours in the women studied, compared with 40 per cent for mammography. When MRI and mammography were combined, 94 per cent of tumours were detected.

MRI screening was particularly effective for carriers of the BRCA1 gene mutation, detecting 92 per cent of tumours in women with the gene, compared with 23 per cent for mammography.

Lead researcher Dr Ros

Eeles, team leader in cancer genetics at the Institute of Cancer Research in London, said: 'The results of the paper have gone to NICE to ask for a fast turnaround time for a new guideline on when MRI should be used. We have asked it to be published as soon as possible ­ we really do hope it will be months if not weeks.'

The researchers recruited 649 high-risk women aged 35 to 49 and offered them annual MRI and mammography for between two and seven years.

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