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Beware of the oral patch! It could be cancer!!!

Oncologists have warned that the common white patches found inside the mouth can lead to oral cancer in many cases. A simple genetic test can help pinpoint if the patches could become cancerous or not. Scientists at the University of Oslo spearheaded this research. If identified early and treated, leukoplakia, as the patches are known, can be cured and the occurrence of cancer prevented.

The number of chromosomes in the cells that make up the patches is the key to finding if the patches can become cancerous or not. If it's the normal 46, cancer is unlikely. If the number is doubled, cancer is more likely. And it becomes very likely if the number of chromosomes cannot be divided evenly by 23, the number of chromosomes received from each parent.

Because there is no way to know which white patches will become cancerous, doctors often remove them as a precaution. But there is also no good way to tell whether they have removed enough. No drugs have yet been proved to prevent oral cancer, but many are being tested.

Several other studies published within the past year have found other genetic markers for oral cancer. For instance, there's also a risk of cancer if cells from the white patches have lost one gene from any of a number of specific pairs. The risk increases with the number of such missing genes.

So never ignore white patches and if you have one, visit your doctor. This simple genetic test can mean the difference between early detection leading on to cure and late detection leading on to death.

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