Women suffering from breast cancer have a distinctive protein pattern in their hair, a recent Australian study has shown. The results present the possibility of an alternative, less invasive form of breast cancer testing for women.
Strands of hair were cut from 33 study participants, 13 suffering from breast cancer, 20 being healthy individuals. X-rays were taken of the hair, and it showed that the hair from all individuals with diagnosed breast cancer had a distinctive alpha-keratin pattern. Alpha-keratin is the primary protein responsible for the growth of hair.
To further investigate the correlation between the distinct alpha-keratin pattern and the presence of breast cancer, a breast cancer patient who lost her hair following chemotherapy treatment was tested six months following her treatment. At that point a significant amount of hair had grown back, and strands were cut close to the root and x-rayed in three locations: close to the root, in the middle and near the tip. What was observed was that the distinct alpha-keratin pattern observed in the previous 13 breast cancer patients was most prevalent near the tip of the hair (representing a point in time closest to when the patient suffered from breast cancer), and was not present at all near the root (representing the breast cancer being completely in remission). There was a progressive decrease in the distinct alpha-keratin pattern from the tip down to the root.
The results of the study were fairly conclusive, but further extensive testing is needed to confirm the reliability of the connection. If the direct correlation between this distinct alpha-keratin pattern and the presence of breast cancer is confirmed, the potential is there for a hair test to be an alternative to biopsy for testing for breast cancer, or for it to be a supplemental test. In either case, it would be a valuable and relatively cost-effective tool.
Source: Defeat Diabetes Foundation: Corino, Gary. French, Peter. International Journal of Cancer. “Diagnosis of breast cancer by X-ray diffraction of hair.” February 2008.