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Pancreatic cancer could be diagnosed through saliva tests

Posted by Yvonne Wallace

One of the deadliest forms of cancer can be potentially screened via a simple saliva test, according to new research.

The University of California, Los Angeles’ School of Dentistry has published the findings of a study it has conducted into pancreatic cancer.

Generally diagnosed through an invasive biopsy, most people died within the first year of finding out they have the disease – while just six per cent of patients live for another five years.

However, scientists have now found that the biomarkers used to diagnose the cancer reside in saliva, bringing them one step closer to developing a non-invasive method of screening.

The report has been led by Dr David Wong – who was recently awarded $5 million (£3.1 million) from the National Institutes for Health’s Common Fund. 

This in itself indicates that the idea that saliva as an indicator for serious diseases is becoming more scientifically credible and experts are getting closer to coming up with a solution.

The School of Dentistry’s dean Dr No-Hee Park said: “Dr Wong and his team have provided verifiable evidence to fully explore the use of salivary biomarkers for the detection of life-threatening disease in a way that is noninvasive and doesn’t cause pain for the patient.”

He added that this latest research “truly confirms” a relationship between diseases like pancreatic cancer and how they manifest themselves orally.

Researchers still do not know how biomarkers appear in the mouth after being produced elsewhere in the body – although at the moment, panels have been developed for breast, ovary and lung forms of cancer, as well as the pancreas.

Dental marketing is a good way to raise awareness among patients of the importance of being screened for such diseases. Vital information can be supplied to them in the form of posters or leaflets in waiting rooms, for example.

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