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Oral Cancer
Counting chromosomes to predict chance of oral cancer
Doctors at the University of Oslo have found an easy way to predict one of the world's most deadly cancers - oral cancer.

More than 300,000 people around the world, and about 30,000 in the United States, are diagnosed each year with oral cancer, making it the 11th most common cancer in the United States, and the ninth most common worldwide. More than half of those people die within five years, largely because the cancers are hard to diagnose early.

The most common sign that cancer may develop is a white patch inside the mouth, called oral leukoplakia. The patches don't always signal cancer, but doctors often remove them because they have no way to know whether the patches will develop into cancer.

In a study done by Dr. Jon Sudbo and reported in the New England Journal of Medicine., it was found that the number of chromosomes one has can help predict oral cancer.

Oral cancers usually develop from white patches that can develop into cancer. It was rare for patches made up of cells with the normal 46 chromosomes - 23 from each parent - to develop into cancer, but it increases when the cells have double the usual number of chromosomes, and it occurs most often when the number was not a multiple of 23 - what doctors call “aneuploid.”

Thirty to 50 percent of all oral cancers have the normal 46 chromosomes and the test can't predict those cancers, but it is at least a predictor and may help identify some oral cancer sooner so it can be treated.

Many mouth cancers can be prevented by staying away from tobacco and alcohol.