Breast cancer

01 July 2009

Earwax, stinky sweat a cancer risk

Wet earwax in combination with foul-smelling sweat are associated with a mutation in the breast cancer gene, Japanese scientists report.

Wet earwax in combination with foul-smelling sweat are associated with a mutation in the ABCC11 breast cancer gene, Japanese scientists report in The FASEB Journal, a publication of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.

Humans have either dry or wet ear wax types, and earwax type may play a role in body odour, the investigators note in their report. Dry earwax is common in East Asians, but is uncommon in Europeans or Africans who are much more likely to have the sticky wet type. Native North Americans are among populations with an intermediate frequency of wet earwax.

In 2006, Dr Toshihisa Ishikawa, from the Tokyo Institute of Technology, and colleagues reported that one mutation, also in the ABCC11 gene, determines the type of earwax. However, it is not known why or how the mutation affects the earwax type, Ishikawa noted.

Their latest studies show that mutation 538G>A affects certain functions of the ABCC11 protein, which greatly affects the function of the sweat glands, Ishikawa said.

Foul-smelling sweat seen as a ‘disease’ in Japan
Overall, data from these studies provide clinical evidence showing that the G formation in the ABCC11 gene is intimately associated with wet-type earwax and foul-smelling sweat, the researcher added.

In the future, genetic typing of the mutation in the ABCC11 gene could provide a way to diagnose foul-smelling sweat, which is recognised as a disease in Japan.

For rapid clinical gene typing, the scientists developed a method that enabled them to perform mutation analysis in the ABCC11 gene within 30 minutes The mutation typing method will provide a practical tool to analysis the genetic link for wet-type earwax, foul body odour, and the risk of breast cancer, Ishikawa said. – (Reuters Health, June 2009)

Read more:
Sweating linked to asthma
Women more sensitive to sweat


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Dr Gudgeon qualified in Birmingham, England, in 1968. She has more than 40 years experience in oncology, and in 1994 she founded her practice, Cape Breast Care, where she treats benign and malignant breast cancers. Dr Boeddinghaus obtained her qualification at UCT Medical School in 1994 and her MRCP in London in 1998. She has worked extensively in the field of oncology and has a special interest in the hormonal management of breast cancer. She now works with Dr Gudgeon at Cape Breast Care. Read more.

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