BALTIMORE, Jan. 2 (UPI) -- A morning gargle -- or swish and spit test -- could someday be used to spot head and neck cancers, U.S. scientists said.
A study published in Clinical Cancer Research shows mouth rinses that capture genetic signatures linked to cancer may hold the promise of becoming screening tools for heavy smokers and alcohol drinkers -- those at high risk for head and neck cancers.
The researchers collected samples when 211 head and neck cancer patients and 527 individuals without mouth, larynx or pharynx cancers brushed the inside of their mouths and then gargled and rinsed with a salt solution.
The researchers filtered out cells containing one or more of 21 bits of chemically altered -- hypermethylated -- genes common only to head and neck cancers and found seven of the 21 were the best predictors of cancer.
Since every cancer process involves a unique genetic fingerprint, Califano predicts combining several gene signatures may identify a larger percentage of cancer patients than using single ones.