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The Fingerprints of Breast Cancer

A high school science project has inspired researchers to focus on fingerprints as possible genetic marker for increased risk of breast cancer.

The Canadian Breast Cancer Research Initiative is funding a one-year project called Digital Dermatoglyphics and a Family History of Breast Cancer. Digital dermatoglyphics are fingerprints.

Dr. Linda Cookan epidemiologist with the Alberta Cancer Board and the University of Calgary will be heading the research. She says, "It is well known that there is a genetic component to breast cancer. Two genes (BRCA1 and BRCA2) have been identified as genetic links, but these account for only a small proportion of cases."

"We have some evidence from a small study to suggest that a family history of breast cancer might be associated with a specific fingerprint pattern. If we do find an association, fingerprints might potentially be used for screening
or to guide future research."

The small study that she mentions is the Calgary science fair project of Breanne Everett and Caitlin Hicks. Both students are in the twelfth grade at Springbank Community High School. Their study was simple, but provided enough information to spur additional research - and win first prize at the science fair.

They started with the idea that fingerprints have been studied as diagnostic indicators for genetic diseases such as schizophrenia and diabetes.

To find out if this is true for breast cancer, they used a free software program from the FBI. They recruited a small number of volunteers to analyze the fingerprints and discovered that there does seem to be a link. A right loop thumb print pattern was more likely to indicate a first degree family history of breast and ovarian cancer than an arch, whorl, tent, or left loop thumb print pattern.

A judge at the science fair put the students in touch with Dr. Cook. The results interested the researcher so much that she enlisting the students as junior collaborators and applied for a $40,000 grant from the Canadian Breast Cancer Research Initiative.

The team will look at the fingerprints of women 20 to 69 years of age from the Calgary Health Region. The more formal study will determine if the pattern that the student's identified hold true in a larger population. Dr. Cook added, "If we get positive results from this study, further research would then be warranted to start to address the underlying biology and genetics of this relationship, as well as the value of dermatogylphic traits in predicting breast cancer risk."

The research team will have the best training. The local Calgary Police Department has offered to train the researchers in expert fingerprinting methods to obtain the best quality samples.

"The CBCRI is pleased to support Dr. Cook and her young collaborators as part of our IDEA Grants Program," says Dr. Marilyn Schneider, executive director of the Canadian Breast Cancer Research Initiative. "CBCRI supports novel ideas such as this with small grants. If this project pays off, it could ultimately lead to big dividends for women."

Provided by: Canada NewsWire


Elsewhere on the Web:

Digital dermatoglyphics and breast cancer

Study of Dermatoglyphic Patterns of Hands in Women with Breast Cancer





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