A new study by Harvard and Northwestern University has revealed that a new test could predict cancer up to 13 years before it has fully developed. The test showed that small but significant changes can start happening to the body up to a decade before the cancer is diagnosed, meaning if these changes can be found as they begin the happen, the cancer can be found much earlier or even prevented.
The study showed that the protective caps on the ends of chromosomes, which prevent DNA damage, are significantly more worn in people who would go on to develop cancer.
These caps, known as telomeres, were much shorter than in people of full health and they continued to get shorter until around four years before the cancer was fully developed, they then suddenly stopped shrinking. Everyone who had these changes went on to develop cancer.
The lead study author and a professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine had this to say: “Understanding this pattern of telomere growth may mean it can be a predictive biomarker for cancer. Because we saw a strong relationship in the pattern across a wide variety of cancers, with the right testing these procedures could be used to eventually diagnose a wide variety of cancers.”
Another side of the study is that people may not want to know that they’ll develop cancer in the future however if this new test can predict cancer before it’s even developed it could be a chance for people to lower their risk by making the appropriate lifestyle changes.
Stanford University is now currently working on a project looking at how telemores can be regrown.
Although this test is not yet available, if you were able to take it, it would potentially be something which would need declaring when getting a travel insurance policy.