Health Watch – Early Warning: Breast Cancer Clock

Health Watch is a Public Service of the Office of News and Publications  and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.

This week on Health Watch, we’re talking about early warnings that could lead to earlier treatment and better outcomes. Researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center have found a chemical “clock” that could indicate a woman’s breast cancer risk.

A chemical process called methylation indicates how many times a cell has divided. Dr. David Euhus, a UT Southwestern cancer specialist, says the more times a cell has divided, the greater the cancer risk. Monitoring a woman’s methylation levels could tell doctors where a woman stands on the cancer “clock.” When that clock reaches a certain level, it means cancer is likely to occur. There may be medications and other factors that can reduce methylation and lower cancer risks. This cancer “clock” may not apply to all kinds of breast cancer, and high methylation levels don’t necessarily mean a woman will develop breast cancer, but it is a good measure of possible risk that may require early intervention.

Visit to learn more about UT Southwestern’s clinical services in cancer.


June 2008

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