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Molecular changes in skin predict predisposition to breast cancer
  1. V J James1,
  2. B E Willis2
  1. 1Research School of Chemistry, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia
  2. 2Eastmoreland Hospital, Portland, Oregon, USA
  1. Correspondence to:
 Professor V J James, Research School of Chemistry, Australian National University, Canberra ACT 0200, Australia;

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Fibre diffraction has been greatly enhanced by the advent of synchrotrons, the beams of which are sufficiently strong to enable weak changes, not visible in conventional x ray diffraction studies, to be seen even with greatly reduced exposure times. Using this technique, James et al1 have determined the structure of primordial embryonic fetal tendon and skin and observed subtle changes in the ultrastructure of the α-keratin of hair in breast carcinoma.2 Using synchrotron fibre diffraction, fetal-like tissue has been located in the skin of healthy females known to have a family history of breast cancer.


During a study of the changes in the molecular structure of dermal collagen with ageing and insulin dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM), skin samples from 192 people aged between 18 and 90 were examined.

Analysis of fibre diffraction patterns of the 172 controls and of the 12 IDDM patients showed that the only change with age of the dermal collagen was a variation in the microfibrillar radius. However, the values obtained for the microfibrillar radii of the IDDM samples was much lower than those of the age …

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