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'Tests could predict breast, pancreatic cancer nine years before'

-The Guardian, Nigeria

Measuring levels of key chemical in women's blood could show if they will suffer disease later
BRITISH scientists believe they have found a way to predict breast cancer nine years before it develops.

In a major breakthrough, they found that measuring levels of a key chemical in the blood of healthy women could predict whether they go on to suffer from the disease later.
The findings could be used to help stop women from developing breast cancer at all, the researchers said.

The study was published in the journal Clinical Cancer Research.
The team from Imperial College London analysed blood samples from around 2,600 women from the United Kingdom (UK), Norway, Australia and Italy, looking at changes to the DNA of white blood cells.

In a series of studies that tracked the women for an average of nine years, they found that those who went on to contract breast cancer had lower levels of a chemical called methyl in their white blood cells' make-up compared to those who did not.
Methylation - the process by which methyl builds up in our DNA - is essential for the healthy development of cells.
But levels of the chemical can be affected by external factors such as alcohol - which can be controlled.

Therefore if a routine test can be developed from this research, it will allow doctors to suggest lifestyle changes that could stop breast cancer developing.
Being able to predict and prevent cancer is a holy grail for researchers. Breast cancer can be discovered in 80 per cent of cases by mammograms, but at this point a tumour has already grown.

Earlier this year scientists at the University of Copenhagen developed a test that could predict who would get breast cancer around two to five years before it occurred - so a nine-year warning would be a significant improvement.
Meanwhile, experts believe a simple test for one of the deadliest cancers could save hundreds of lives a year.

Researchers in London have identified three proteins which give an early and accurate warning sign of pancreatic cancer. They think the discovery could lead to a cheap and non-invasive urine test to screen people at risk of developing the disease.
Pancreatic cancer is the 11th most common cancer in Britain, with around 9,000 people diagnosed each year.

But it is also one of the most deadly, with only 3 per cent surviving for five years, compared to 87 per cent for breast cancer and 98 per cent for testicular cancer.
The disease causes few symptoms in the early stages, so often goes undetected until the cancer is too advanced to treat.
And even if the warning signs are there they are often missed, because they are easily confused with common ailments.
Doctors call the disease 'a wolf in sheep's clothing' because the symptoms - back ache, jaundice and weight loss - are often mistaken for those of indigestion, acid reflux or back strain.

Experts hope that situation could change if their results are replicated in further clinical trials, and an accurate test is developed.
The team at Queen Mary, University of London found that their three-protein 'signature' in urine can identify the most common form of pancreatic cancer when still in its early stages - as well as distinguish between cancer and the condition chronic pancreatitis, which can be hard to tell apart.

If it is developed into a urine test for people most at risk of developing the disease, it could trigger early treatment before the cancer advances too far.
Pancreatic cancer has claimed the lives of Patrick Swayze, Luciano Pavarotti, and Apple founder Steve Jobs.
Actor Sir John Hurt also revealed six weeks ago that he had been diagnosed with the disease at the age of 75.

Although there is no universal cause of pancreatic cancer, people at higher risk of developing the disease include those with a family history of the disease, heavy smokers, the obese and people aged over 50 with new-onset diabetes.
Dr. James Flanagan, from the department of surgery and cancer at Imperial College London, said: "This novel and exciting topic has the potential to show how lifestyle and environmental factors influence one's risk of developing breast cancer."


Why night shifts, chemicals raise cancer risk

Culled from The Guardian
Night shift work has previously been linked to a raised cancer risk, but it wasn't clear why. Now a study by the Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona suggests increased levels of sex hormones, such as oestrogen and testosterone, at the 'wrong' time may be to blame.
PEOPLE who work night shifts may be more at risk of breast or prostate cancer because of hormonal changes.
The report, based on data from 120 adults and 25 children and published in the journal Sleep, suggests the therapy can reduce sleep apnoea by 50 per cent in adults and 62 per cent in children.

More than 100 people who worked different shifts gave urine samples across a 24-hour period; their hormone levels were also measured. Night workers were found to have significantly higher levels of sex hormones at the wrong time, such as testosterone peaking between 10am and 2pm, rather than between 6am and 10am.
Sleep apnoea occurs when tissues in the throat collapse in the night, blocking airways, and the sufferer stops breathing intermittently. Snoring is the sound of the tissues vibrating as air squeezes through the obstructed airway as the patient starts breathing again.
The Stanford team conducted a review of studies into myofunctional therapy, where sleep apnoea patients are trained to do specific face and tongue exercises to make it less likely that the soft tissue will collapse.

Meanwhile, according to a task force of nearly 200 scientists from 28 countries, including one from Oregon State University, United States, common environmental chemicals assumed to be safe at low doses may act separately or together to disrupt human tissues in ways that eventually lead to cancer.
The team's findings are published in a series of papers in a special issue of the journal Carcinogenesis.

In a nearly three-year investigation of the state of knowledge about environmentally influenced cancers, the scientists studied low-dose effects of 85 common chemicals not considered to be carcinogenic to humans.

The researchers reviewed the actions of these chemicals against a long list of mechanisms that are important for cancer development. Drawing on hundreds of laboratory studies, large databases of cancer information, and models that predict cancer development, they compared the chemicals' biological activity patterns to 11 known cancer "hallmarks" – distinctive patterns of cellular and genetic disruption associated with early development of tumors.

The chemicals included bisphenol A (BPA), used in plastic food and beverage containers; rotenone, a broad-spectrum insecticide; paraquat, an agricultural herbicide; and triclosan, an antibacterial agent used in soaps and cosmetics.
In their survey, the researchers learned that 50 of the 85 chemicals had been shown to disrupt functioning of cells in ways that correlated with known early patterns of cancer, even at the low, presumably benign levels at which most people are exposed.
For 13 of them, the researchers found evidence of a dose-response threshold – a level of exposure at which a chemical is considered toxic by regulators. For 22, there was no toxicity information at all.

"Our findings also suggest these molecules may be acting in synergy to increase cancer activity," said William Bisson, an assistant professor and cancer researcher at OSU and a team leader on the study. "For example, EDTA, a metal-ion-binding compound used in manufacturing and medicine, interferes with the body's repair of damaged genes.
"EDTA doesn't cause genetic mutations itself," said Bisson, "but if you're exposed to it along with some substance that is mutagenic, it enhances the effect because it disrupts DNA repair, a key layer of cancer defense."

Bisson said the main purpose of this study was to highlight gaps in knowledge of environmentally influenced cancers and to set forth a research agenda for the next few years. He added that more research is still necessary to assess early exposure

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