A new study shows that trips to the dentist could reveal more than just cavities. It was found that a dentist’s visit could help detect breast cancer in women.
Breast cancer is the second leading cause of death among women in the U.S. In 2006, there were 212,920 new cases of breast cancer in women. The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommendations about breast exams state that they should be undergone every 3 years for women over 20, and one mammogram a year along with the clinical breast exam for women over 40.
With this new test, dentists may be able to use saliva instead of blood test to identify early stages of cancer just by collecting a spit sample in a tube between flossing and polishing.
The saliva analysis would look at four specific proteins found in saliva in high enough levels to be tested. These proteins are just some of the markers identified for breast cancer tumors. This could be a widely used inexpensive and non-invasive solution to early detection.
Currently, there are no tumor markers approved by the FDA for early detection of breast cancer. Breast cancer markers are only used for prognosis and monitoring treatment and cannot serve as early warnings for the cancer presence.
Scientists found that saliva tested in breast cancer sufferers revealed higher levels of a epidermal growth factor (EGF). Testing for proteins associated with this EGF pathway are the most promising for further studies.
Two other markers have been identified using saliva. Erb and CA15-3 have already been used in blood tests to identify malignancy and track treatment but scientists revealed that they could be tracked through saliva as well. It has been determined that these proteins tested by saliva in breast cancer patients were 45 to 50 % higher than in women without the cancer.
Study researchers report that blood tests still represent the gold standard for diagnostic testing. Saliva testing will not replace mammograms and blood tests but will only act as a first line of defense.
Saliva testing is simple and safe, involves no needles in sight. It only takes a sample that dentists already take from the patients’ mouth during cleanings.
Dentists are very likely to accept this new method as soon as the FDA approves it and finds it cost effective.