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Earlier Detection of Breast Cancer May Be Possible

Blood test could indicate presence of disease long before diagnosis, study says

TUESDAY, April 20 (HealthDay News) -- A blood test may indicate that women have breast cancer as many as 17 months before they're diagnosed with the disease, new research suggests.

Researchers made the discovery while looking for markers in the blood that could detect breast cancer in its early stages.

The blood test measures levels of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR). Researchers found it while examining blood tests given to 420 estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer patients before they were diagnosed.

The research team compared the blood test results to those from a control group. Those with the highest levels of the receptor were 2.9 times more likely to develop breast cancer than those with the lowest levels.

"While our results require confirmation and EGFR's performance is insufficient for it to be used as a single marker, this study is unique in that no prior studies have validated a single breast cancer early detection biomarker specimen to the degree we have here," study leader Dr. Christopher Li, an associate member of the epidemiology program at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, said in a news release.

"Our results suggest that there may indeed be detectable changes of proteins in blood within two years of making a clinical breast cancer diagnosis," he said. "Identification of these proteins could have a major impact on our ability to detect breast cancer early, when it is most treatable."

The study findings were to be presented Tuesday at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research, in Washington, D.C.

More information

For more on breast cancer, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

SOURCE: American Association for Cancer Research, news release, April 20, 2010

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