We all know that our bodies operate on their own clock, which is regulated by the circadian rhythm. New research now suggests that a gene which is associated with each cell’s peripheral clock could have an effect on the risk of developing breast cancer.
Researchers at the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Science evaluated the body’s use of Period 2 (Per2), a gene that provides the counterbalance to the circadian rhythm process.
Professor Weston Porter, whose team conducted the research, explained that the “negative and positive feedback mechanisms are constantly in balance, going up and down”. Per2 is one of these feedback mechanisms.
However, the study revealed that it also appears to perform another function - that of a tumour suppressor gene. He explained that “Per2 expression is lost in a large percentage of mammary tumours, which suggests it may have protective effects”.
Although the researchers are still working on understanding exactly how this works in humans, it could be another important step in treating breast cancer, as the type of breast cancer associated with lower Per2 levels is more invasive and therefore harder to treat.
They also want to revisit studies that have associated a higher risk of breast cancer with working night shifts and apply their new findings where possible.
This kind of research is invaluable in the fight against breast cancer, but it’s important that everyone is educated on the signs and symptoms of the disease, as well as being confident to carry out a breast cancer self exam.
Charlotte Hawkins, presenter on Good Morning Britain, recently urged women to learn how to examine themselves and to get any changes in their breasts checked by a doctor as soon as possible.