Your Saliva may Soon Reveal Your Cancer Risks

Saliva test measures potential carcinogens in DNA

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Estimating a person's risk of cancer, or presence of the disease, usually involves a number of tests. That may change if researchers can perfect a test currently being developed.

Scientists are working on a saliva test that holds promise in identifying cancer-causing (carcinogens) attached to a person's DNA. Such a test could become commercially available to determine a person's risk of developing cancer and other diseases.

"Saliva test may soon assess your risks for cancer and other diseases."

This test looks at damaged DNA or what the researchers call "DNA adducts," which are biomarkers that show the presence of disease.

Lead researcher, professor Hauh-Jyun Candy Chen, Ph.D., explains that adducts  may be useful in diagnosing diseases, monitor treatment effectiveness and help high-risk patients - such as smokers - make lifestyle changes.

The study conducted at the National Chung Cheng University (NCCU) in Taiwan first found adducts in urine and blood, then focused in on saliva. A DNA adduct is formed when carcinogens become chemically stuck to a DNA strand. DNA makes up our genes.

We come in contact with these substances all the time in everyday life.  Second-hand cigarette smoke, for example, contains at least 20 different known carcinogens.

If the adduct binds to the DNA, then the gene may stop working properly. Our immune system can repair this damage most of the time.

But if the immune system fails, the damaged DNA can lead to genetic mutations which can result in cancer and other diseases.

It's known that DNA adducts accumulate with age, and they've been associated with inflammatory diseases such as arthritis and brain disorders, including Alzheimer's disease.

The test under development measures five DNA adducts, including some formed as a result of smoking.

Scientists have recently discovered that DNA can be easily obtained from saliva that contains white blood cells and other cells from the lining of the mouth.

Early findings from this study were reported at the 242nd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS).

Research is considered preliminary before it is published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
September 6, 2011
Last Updated:
September 6, 2011