Early trials have begun for a saliva test to detect genetic markers that put men at a heightened risk for prostate cancer, according to BBC News.

One in eight men suffer from prostate cancer in their lifetimes. Due to genetics, 10 percent of men carry a risk three times higher, and 1 percent of men have six times as great a risk. The new test uses 150 DNA markers to identify these groups, and follows recent research that uncovered 63 new gene variants with a link to prostate cancer. The test looks for these markers, as well as others that were known previously.

Three hundred men will participate in the trials, with plans for a larger trial of 5,000 individuals next year. Currently, there is no single reliable test for prostate cancer, which is diagnosed with a combination of biopsies, physical examinations, and the PSA blood test, which can give both false positives and negatives.

The new saliva test was developed by an international group of scientists at London’s Institute of Cancer Research (ICR).

The ICR’s Ros Eeles, a professor of oncogenetics, explained:

“By looking at the DNA code of tens of thousands of men in more depth than ever before, we have uncovered vital new information about the genetic factors that can predispose someone to prostate cancer, and, crucially, we have shown that information from more than 150 genetic variants can now be combined to provide a readout of a man’s inherited risk of prostate cancer.”


If the test found that a patient has a high risk for prostate cancer, they would then be scanned further and undergo a biopsy of their prostate. Such a screening system could help to avoid unnecessary procedures.

“It could have a substantial impact on how we actually manage those at increased risk because if you find the disease earlier it’s much easier to treat it and much more easy to cure,” according to Eeles.

The study was published in the journal Nature Genetics, and received funding from the US National Cancer Institute, the European Research Council, Cancer Research UK, and Prostate Cancer UK.

According to Prostate Cancer UK director Iain Frame:

“This new research could help men to understand their individual genetic risk of prostate cancer, which could prompt them to speak to their GP about the disease. Given that one in eight men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime, we urgently need more accurate diagnostic tests which are suitable for use in a nationwide screening program.”

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