A rapid saliva test capable of identifying men at high risk of prostate cancer has been developed by a team of researchers from the Institute of Cancer Research, London, and the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust.

According to its developers, the at-home spit test can identify genetic factors that reportedly predispose individuals to the disease, with the potential of saving thousands of lives by the early detection of prostate cancer.

The team developed the so-called spit test under the BARCODE 1 study, wherein spit samples from more than 6,000 men between the ages of 55 and 69 were used to calculate their prostate cancer polygenic risk scores (PRSs). The PRSs were reportedly based on 130 genetic variations – many of which are hereditary – linked with prostate cancer as determined through studies involving the DNA of hundreds of thousands of men.

During the study, men with the highest 10% risk scores were invited to undergo additional screening that included an MRI and a prostate biopsy. Following the additional screening, 187 of these men — or 40% of the total — were diagnosed with prostate cancer.

This was a reportedly dramatic increase when measured against the 25% of men identified by prostate-specific antigen (PSA) tests who actually have prostate cancer. Significantly, 147 — or 78% — of the men diagnosed using the saliva test had so-called normal PSA levels, which would subsequently halt any additional screening, the researchers suggested.

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