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Do post-breast cancer diagnosis toenail trace element concentrations reflect pre-diagnostic concentrations?

A new interesting article has been published in Epidemiology. 2018 Sep 25. doi: 10.1097/EDE.0000000000000927. and titled:

Do post-breast cancer diagnosis toenail trace element concentrations reflect pre-diagnostic concentrations?

Authors of this article are:
O’Brien KM White AJ Sandler DP Jackson BP Karagas MR Weinberg CR.

A summary of the article is shown below:
BACKGROUND: Exposure to trace elements may affect health, including breast cancer risk. Trace element levels in toenails are potentially useful biomarkers of exposure, but their reliability is not established. We assessed the reproducibility of toenail element concentrations over time and whether concentrations change following a breast cancer diagnosis.METHODS: We assessed trace element levels in toenails collected at two time points from 221 women (111 with and 110 without an intervening breast cancer diagnosis). We measured levels of arsenic, cadmium, chromium, cobalt, copper, iron, mercury, manganese, molybdenum, nickel, lead, antimony, selenium, tin, vanadium, and zinc using inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry in samples collected at baseline and 4-10 years later. We compared trace element concentrations over time using Spearman’s rank correlation coefficient (R). We used linear models to examine the magnitude and direction of changes and the influence of a breast cancer diagnosis.RESULTS: Overall, we observed positive correlations (R=0.18-0.71) between paired samples for all trace elements. However, nickel (R=-0.02) and antimony (R=0.12) were not correlated among cases. We observed decreases in cadmium, chromium, mercury, manganese, molybdenum, nickel, and lead between baseline and follow-up, but case status was unrelated to these changes. The declines are consistent with decreases over calendar-time rather than age-time.CONCLUSIONS: Toenail trace element concentrations were correlated over time, but many elements showed systematic decreases by calendar year. Aside from nickel and antimony, post-diagnostic toenail levels correlated with pre-diagnostic levels, providing support for using post-diagnostic toenail samples in retrospective studies.

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