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UK Researchers Open Door for $8 Saliva Test to Assess Cancer Risk

Mar 27, 2013 10:20 PM EDT

British researchers announced Wednesday that the advancements in genetics have allow them to open the door for a simple blood or saliva test that can reliably predict the odds of breast and prostate cancers.

This possibility is a result of the study of DNA of cancer patients and healthy men and women over the past four years, by more than a thousand scientists

Right now about 150 breast and prostate cancer genes have been identified, and this has led to the possibility of cheaper and easier testing of patients with high risks of developing these diseases.

In an initial phase the testing would entail that the samples be sent off to a laboratory for analysis. However, it might one day be possible to get instant test results at your GP’s surgery.

The results of the study could also lead to new drugs for hard-to-treat cancers and a test to determine the risk of ovarian cancer. The same technique could be used to assess the risk of bowel and lung cancers. (And by cheaper, here, they mean $5 tests.)

“By understanding why some people seem to be at greater risk of developing cancer we can look towards an era where we can take steps to reduce their chances of getting cancer or pick up the disease at its earliest stages,” Dr Harpal Kumar, of Cancer Research UK, which part-funded the DNA analysis of more than 200,000 people, said in a interview to UK Daily Mail.

“The principle is broad and the potential gains are huge,”

Every year almost 100,000 cases of breast, prostate and ovarian cancer are diagnosed. At the moment, mammograms are unable to distinguish between women with a potentially fatal form of breast cancer and those who have the disease but are unlikely ever to experience symptoms.

According to Dr Paul Pharoah, a geneticist at Cambridge University, “The hope is that you spend less on the screening program, screen fewer women and save the same number of lives. By screening fewer women you do less physical and psychological harm.’

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