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Isolating epithelial cells from breast milk may provide personalized screen for breast cancer

Monday, April 4, 2011 (Last Updated: 04/05/2011)

MONDAY, April 4 (HealthDay News) -- An individualized screen evaluating epithelial cells from women's breast milk may provide insight into breast cancer risk, according to research presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research, held April 2 to 6 in Orlando, Fla.

Kathleen F. Arcaro, Ph.D., of the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, and colleagues collected breast milk samples from more than 200 women who were scheduled for or who had a breast biopsy. Samples provided by women from both breasts were processed within 24 hours of expression. The investigators evaluated three genes -- RASSF1, GSTP1, and SFRP1 -- isolating DNA from epithelial cells to look for the attachment of methyl groups to these genes, which signals gene expression.

The investigators found no difference in the average epithelial DNA methylation of the biopsied breast versus non-biopsied breast for RASSF1 and GSTP1 among 104 women with a non-proliferative lesion. However, the average methylation was higher in the biopsied breast versus non-biopsied breast for SFRP1. In addition, among the women whose biopsies revealed cancer, there was a significant increase in average RASSF1 methylation in the biopsied breast as compared with the non-biopsied breast.

"Long-term follow-up is ongoing for women enrolled in this study to determine breast health outcomes. Knowledge of promoter methylation along with long-term follow-up may help us to better assess individual breast cancer risk," the authors write. "Given the high percentage of women that give birth and therefore produce milk, if even for just a few days, a breast cancer risk screen based on epithelial cells in milk has the potential to affect a significant portion of all women."

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Specialties Hematology & Oncology
OBGYN & Women's Health
Pathology
Pharmacy
Radiology
Surgery
Nursing
Family Practice
Geriatrics
Internal Medicine

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