Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Cancer Health Center

Font Size

Genetic Test Helps Identify Those at High Risk for Mouth and Throat Cancer


Marshall Posner, MD, director of the head and neck oncology center at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, says that it is not possible or necessary to closely monitor or treat everyone with white patches in their mouths. However, if a test like this can weed out, with reasonable accuracy, who is most likely to develop cancer, efforts can concentrate on monitoring those individuals, and those not at high risk can breathe easier. Posner was not involved in the research.

Sudbø and his colleagues identified 150 people who had the type of white patches in their mouth and throat that sometimes lead to cancer. The investigators conduced genetic studies on samples of these white patches and followed the individuals for over eight years. They found that the test, while not perfect, did a good job of predicting which participants would eventually develop cancer of the mouth and throat and which wouldn't.

This type of test is already being used to test for risk of other types of cancers, so the technology is available in some medical centers.

Currently, there's not a lot that can be done for people at high risk for oral cancer aside from surgically removing the white patches completely, which is no guarantee that cancer won't develop elsewhere in the mouth. Several studies are currently underway, though, for drugs called chemoprevention therapy that are designed to stop cancer before it starts. Lippman and Posner agree that those identified at high risk for oral cancer by tests such as this one should seriously consider enrolling in the clinical trials that study these drugs.

1 | 2

Today on WebMD

Colorectal cancer cells
New! I AM Not Cancer Facebook Group
Lung cancer xray
See it in pictures, plus read the facts.
sauteed cherry tomatoes
Fight cancer one plate at a time.
Ovarian cancer illustration
Real Cancer Perspectives
Jennifer Goodman Linn self-portrait
what is your cancer risk
colorectal cancer treatment advances
breast cancer overview slideshow
prostate cancer overview
lung cancer overview slideshow
ovarian cancer overview slideshow
Actor Michael Douglas