Atlantic Canadian researchers using toenail clippings in fight against prostate cancer

Click to play video: 'Toenails part of research aiming to prevent prostate cancer' Toenails part of research aiming to prevent prostate cancer
WATCH: Toenail samples from men in Atlantic Canada are being used in research aimed at preventing prostate cancer. Andrew Cromwell reports – Jan 31, 2018

An interesting study is set to get underway in the Maritimes that could help in the fight against the most common form of cancer in Canadian men.

Toe nail clippings from about 150 men with prostate cancer will be analyzed and compared to nails of men without the disease. The nails are part of world-record collection of more than 32,000 collected in the Atlantic provinces.

“We’re going to use toenail samples as an indicator of risk factors specifically related to environmental exposure to heavy metals in development of prostate cancer,” said Dr. Jong Sung Kim of Dalhousie University in Halifax.

READ MORE: Could there soon be a better way to protect against prostate cancer?

Specifically, they’re looking for cadmium and arsenic and the nails are said to be good biological materials to examine them in.

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“All of us get some exposure to these metals in day-to-day life through food, soil, water but also through work,” said Dr. Anil Adidesh of Dalhousie Medicine New Brunswick in Saint John. “Quite often, work exposures are some of the more significant exposures people can get.”

Researchers say they’re hoping to build on an earlier Italian study indicating an increased risk of prostate cancer from cadmium exposure.

WATCH: Prostate cancer testing can save lives: study

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Prostate cancer testing can save lives: study – Sep 4, 2017

“We’ll be in a better position to give advice on environmental exposures,” explained said Adidesh. “Whether they may need reductions and what people can do to avoid unnecessary exposure.”

The work is a collaboration between researchers in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and British Columbia. It is funded by Prostate Cancer Canada and the New Brunswick Health Research Foundation.

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Prostate cancer affects about one in eight men during their lifetime.

READ: Testicular cancer survivor warns others: ‘I never thought I’d get it in my 20s’

Steps are being made in the fight against prostate cancer, but more can be done to increase awareness according Prostate Cancer Canada.

“We as guys don’t tend to like to talk about diseases and things that can actually affect us particularly when it’s something that actually affects our quality of life in a number of different areas,” said the organization’s vice-president of research, Dr. Stuart Edmonds.

“We think about sexual function and urinary function.”

The research work is expected to take place over the next two years.

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