Matt Hancock: gene tests show I have a heightened risk of prostate cancer

Laura Donnelly
Matt Hancock said it was an

Matt Hancock has revealed that he is at heightened risk of developing prostate cancer as he urges the NHS to roll out gene testing more widely.

The Health Secretary said he has undergone tests which show that he has a higher rate of the disease than the average man, despite no family history of the cancer.

Mr Hancock called for a national debate about the biggest ethical questions concerning a revolution in genomics, as he revealed that he was shocked by his own results.

The tests found he has a 15 per cent chance of suffering prostate cancer by the age of 75 - a risk about 1.5 times greater than the average man.

In a speech to The Royal Society, the Health Secretary will say the test may have saved his life, as he called for the urgent rollout of “predictive testing” across the NHS.

Mr Hancock is expected to say that too much data was “locked away” in research labs, as a result of bureaucratic obstacles and scientists refusing to share it.

He will also call it an “outrage” that findings which could save lives were not more widely shared, urging researchers to “publish or be damned”.

The Health Secretary, who is 40, has recently undergone a number of tests, to examine his own genes. He will tell the event that he was glad to find that for most of 16 diseases tested, he had a lower risk than average.

“I probably have my grandmother, who lived to a 103, to thank for that,” he is expected to say.

But he said he was left “surprised and concerned” when he was found to be at higher risk of prostate cancer.

Mr Hancock will say he plans to discuss the results with his GP, and would be certain not to miss any screening checks for the disease, which is highly treatable if caught early.

“I would never have found this out if it hadn’t been for the genomic test. Tragically, so many men don’t find out they have it, until it’s too late. The truth is this test may have saved my life,” he will say, calling on services to “get predictive testing into the NHS as soon as we possibly can.”

Currently the NHS offers limited gene testing, when patients are thought to be at higher risk, because of a family history of disease.

Mr Hancock will say too much data is “locked away in research labs” as a result of bureaucracy, or because scientists do not want to share their findings.

“Data, funded by the British taxpayer, donated by the public, can’t be used for predictive testing because of bureaucratic blocking or a scientist wanting to have a monopoly: that’s an outrage,” he will say.

“We will unlock that data. Because we must save lives. And I say this to any researcher, who is blocking data access: open up this data, publish or be damned.”

The Government has set out an ambition to sequence 5 million genomes over the next five years to build a diagnostic, predictive, preventative and personalised health and care service.

So far 100,000 genomes have been sequenced, allowing one in four participants with rare diseases receiving a diagnosis for the first time.