Fourier Transform Infrared Attenuated Total Reflection Analysis of Human Hair: Comparison of Hair from Breast Cancer Patients with Hair from Healthy Subjects

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A comparative study of Fourier transform infrared attenuated total reflection (FTIR-ATR) spectra of 32 scalp and pubic hair samples from individuals diagnosed with breast cancer and those who were negative for breast cancer showed increases in the β-sheet/disorder structures (relative to α-helix structures) and C–H lipid content of hair from breast cancer patients. Thus, the presence of breast cancer appears to alter the hair growth process, resulting in changes in the composition and conformation of cell membrane and matrix materials of hair fiber. These appear to be consistent with the changes observed in X-ray diffraction patterns for hair from breast cancer patients. A blind study of 12 additional hair samples using these FTIR-ATR spectral differences as markers correctly identified all four hair samples from cancer patients (100%). Two of these samples were from breast cancer patients. Of the remaining two samples analyzing positive for cancer, one was from a prostate cancer patient and one from a lung cancer patient. Thus, it appears that the mechanism that alters hair fiber synthesis in the three types of cancer may be similar. The blind study incorrectly identified as positive for cancer three hair samples from two apparently healthy individuals and one patient considered cured from prostate cancer.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Materials Science and Engineering and Department of Bioengineering, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication date: January 1, 2005

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