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Breast Cancer Detected Earlier With Metal Blood Test, Study

Update Date: Dec 09, 2014 04:19 PM EST

A special blood test can help doctors diagnose breast cancer at an earlier stage, according to a new study.

New research from the University of Oxford revealed that measuring the body's zinc fluctuations could help determine early-stage breast cancer.

Scientists in the latest study were able to show that changes in the isotopic composition of zinc have the potential to reveal a "biomarker" of early breast cancer. Researchers noted that changes in zinc could be detected by analyzing blood samples collected from breast tissue.

The latest study involved 10 participants. There were five breast cancer patients and five healthy controls. Researchers analyzed zinc in the blood and blood serum of participants by using techniques that are over 100 times more sensitive to changes in the isotopic composition of metals than current methods. The findings revealed that this technique helped researchers identify key differences in zinc caused when cancer subtly alters the way that cells process the metal.

"It has been known for over a decade that breast cancer tissues contain high concentrations of zinc but the exact molecular mechanisms that might cause this have remained a mystery," lead researcher Dr. Fiona Larner of Oxford University's Department of Earth Sciences, said in a news release.

"Our work shows that techniques commonly used in earth sciences can help us to understand not only how zinc is used by tumor cells but also how breast cancer can lead to changes in zinc in an individual's blood - holding out the promise of an easily-detectable biomarker of early breast cancer," Larner added.

The findings are published in the journal Metallomics.

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