Scientists have discovered a way of blocking an enzyme related to the development of breast cancer.
Lysyl oxidase (LOX) is responsible for stiffening collagen in the breast, which causes a physical change in tissue and, in turn, makes the development of cancer more likely, the Institute of Cancer Research says.
The knowledge has been used to detect the condition in the past, but researchers are hopeful the new study could eventually lead to a treatment.
Study leader Dr Janine Erler said: "The enzyme triggers a clear physical change in breast tissue and, if we could stop this happening, we expect it would slow the growth of any cancers that did develop and make them easier to eradicate."
Professor Valerie Weaver of the University of California in San Francisco, who was also part of the team, added: "This study may also help explain why the rate of breast cancer increases dramatically with age - aged tissues are stiffer and contain higher levels of abnormal collagen cross-links.
"I'm cautiously optimistic. We still have a lot more work to do, but this is certainly exciting."
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