Saliva May Reveal Oral Cancer Clues
Saliva Screening Test for Oral Cancer May Catch Tumors Earlier
WebMD News Archive
July 7, 2005 -- Detecting oral cancer may one day be as easy as spitting
into a cup, a new study suggests.
Researchers found people with oral cancer have higher levels of certain
types of bacteria, and screening for these bacteria may offer a new way to
diagnose the disease before it's too late.
Oral cancer is one of the deadliest forms of cancer with only slightly more
than half of those with the disease living up to five years after their
diagnosis. Most oral cancers are within the lining of the mouth. As they
progress they spread to deeper layers of the lining of the mouth. The American
Cancer Society estimates that about 29,000 cases of oral cancer will be
diagnosed and about 7,000 people will die of this cancer in 2005.
However, early detection and treatment of oral cancer can increase cure
rates by up to 80% to 90%.
Tobacco and drinking alcohol are the two biggest risk factors for oral
cancer, but some people with the disease have no known risk factors.
Saliva Test May Screen for Oral Cancer
Cancerous tumors in the mouth and throat often cause no symptoms, and
researchers say there is a need for an easy-to-use screening test to detect
The American Cancer Society recommends that doctors and dentists examine the
mouth and throat for potentially cancerous growths during routine
In the study, which appears in the current issue of the Journal of
Translational Medicine, researchers looked at whether the bacteria found
in people with oral cancer differed from those found in people without oral
Researchers analyzed saliva samples from 45 people with oral cancer and 45
healthy people. The groups were similar in age, sex, and smoking status.
Of the 40 different bacteria analyzed, the study showed that six common
bacteria were found at significantly higher levels in people with oral
When researchers used three species of these bacteria to screen for oral
cancer in the saliva samples, the tests correctly predicted more than 80% of
the oral cancer cases.
Researchers say these findings may form the basis for the development of a
noninvasive and inexpensive saliva test for diagnosing oral cancer.