New research shows that too much copper in the blood has been linked with melanoma, as well as breast, lung and thyroid cancer.
The new study has shown copper levels could play a part in forms of the disease that possess a common mutation in the cancer-causing gene BRAF.
Scientists say that cancer could be ‘starved’ by taking pills that remove copper from the body.
An excess of copper, which can be caused by eating too much green vegetables and seafood, could mean an increase in deadly cancers like melanoma.
The researchers found that when they blocked copper uptake by tumours with the BRAF mutation the tumours stopped developing.
While it is not believed that copper molecules in the blood causes cancer, it is thought that it helps cancer cells ‘breathe’. By removing copper we may be able to lessen the development of cancer in the body.
Previous research showed that copper in drinking water quickened the growth of tumours in mice. However, reducing copper levels slowed tumour growth, suggesting that copper is an essential factor in cancer growth.
The research, carried out by Duke University in North Carolina, may allow scientists to tackle cancer with drugs used to block copper absorption in patients.
Professor Christopher Counter said: “BRAF-positive cancers like melanoma almost hunger for copper.”
Following the research a clinical trial has been approved at Duke to test the copper-reducing drugs in patients with melanoma.