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Mon 4 Feb 2008 04:00 AM

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Dental practices ‘could screen for breast cancer’

US researchers are investigating a saliva test that could allow dentists to screen for breast cancer in their surgeries.

US researchers are investigating a saliva test that could allow dentists to screen for breast cancer in their surgeries.

According to a paper published in the journal Cancer Investigation, US researchers have found that women with breast cancer secrete marker proteins into saliva. The test would check saliva for these early warning markers, and could be used as an adjunct to established screening tools.

Clinical trials for a prototype are in the planning stage, the University of Texas Dental Branch team said.

The researchers analysed saliva samples from 30 patients, including 10 women with malignant tumours, 10 with pre-cancerous cells known as ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) and 10 healthy volunteers.

The team detected 49 proteins that differentiated those who were healthy and who had breast cancer tumours. Crucially, the proteins could also distinguish between tumours that were benign or malignant, potentially helping to avoid unncessary surgeries.

Professor Charles Streckfus, who led the research, said that dentists were ideally placed to play a diagnostic role.

"Why not the dentist? Most folks visit the dentist way more than they see the physician," he said. "Saliva is a non-invasive, quicker tool for detection.

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