Breast milk may harbor cancer clues | Science News

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Breast milk may harbor cancer clues

Analysis could provide noninvasive means for testing risk in women

By
12:25pm, April 5, 2011

ORLANDO, Fla. — Breast milk may provide a storehouse of genetic data indicating whether a woman is at risk of breast cancer, a new study finds. The findings were reported April 4 at a meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research.

Past studies of breast tissues and fluids have suggested that molecular changes in certain genes can show up in women at heightened risk of breast cancer.

In the new study, Kathleen Arcaro, an environmental toxicologist at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and her colleagues analyzed milk from 250 women who had had a single breast biopsied to test whether a lump or other swelling was cancerous or benign. The researchers got milk samples from both breasts.

The researchers looked at a specific type of breast cells shed in the milk. They tested three genes in these cells for methylation, a process that often inactivates a gene by chemically disabling its promoter, or start switch.

The scientists have g

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