Scientists have identified some molecular changes which could explain why older women are at higher risk of breast cancer.
The research by a team at the US Department of Energy (DOE)'s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) found that the presence of certain cells increase and decrease with age.
In the breast tissue, ageing caused the number of multipotent progenitors, an adult stem cell previously associated with cancer, to rise, while it also caused a drop in myoepithelial cells which line the milk producing cells.
The latter are also thought to be a tumour suppressor.
"Now that we have defined some of the cell and molecular changes that occur in the epithelium during the aging process and we have the ability to assay them functionally, it should be possible to look for ways to avoid those states and perhaps even reverse them," said Mark LaBarge, a cell and molecular biologist in Berkeley Lab's Life Sciences Division and study leader.
Further study is needed but Mr LaBarge said that even large scale screening could be based on these results.
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