Molecules in saliva may aid in early oral cancer detection, suggest findings of a study published by Clinical Cancer Research and reported by HealthDay.

Researchers measured microRNA levels—molecules that control activity and assess multiple gene behavior––in the saliva of 100 people (50 with oral cancer and 50 cancer-free participants). In the cancer patients’ saliva, researchers found significantly lower levels of two molecules (miR-125a and miR 200a) of at least 50 microRNAs associated with oral cancer.

“The oral cavity is a mirror to systemic health, and many diseases that develop in other parts of the body have an oral manifestation,” said David T. Wong, DMD, DMsc, a professor at the University of California at Los Angeles School of Dentistry and the study’s author.

Wong stressed, however, that the study’s finding must be confirmed by a more comprehensive analysis.

“It is a holy grail of cancer detection to be able to measure the presence of a cancer without a biopsy, so it is very appealing to think that we could detect a cancer-specific marker in a patient’s saliva,” commented Jennifer Grandis, MD, a senior editor of the journal and a professor of otolaryngology and pharmacology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and Cancer Institute.

Find out how your morning cup of joe could prevent oral cancer here.