By Stephen Matthews Health Editor For Mailonline
Published: 00:05 BST, 12 June 2019 | Updated: 00:05 BST, 12 June 2019
Doctors could spot patients at high risk of throat cancer decades before it develops, research suggests.
Scientists found patients who have HPV antibodies present in their blood face up to a 100-fold increased risk of the disease.
Samples taken from a handful of patients 40 years before they were diagnosed tested positive for the antibodies, researchers said.
Academics now hope the findings could lead to a way of spotting people who are at high risk of developing the form of cancer.
Scientists found patients who have HPV antibodies present in their blood face up to a 100-fold increased risk of the disease
The main causes of oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma, the type of throat cancer analysed in this study, are smoking and alcohol use.
However, infection with HPV16 – spread through vaginal, anal and oral sex – is thought to cause around 70 per cent of the cases.
Researchers analysed data from 743 patients with OPSCC. They were compared to 5,800 people without the disease.
They were all part of the HPV Cancer Cohort Consortium study, which saw them regularly provide scientists with blood samples.
Samples were tested for antibodies against HPV16, a strain of the common STI that also plays a role in other forms of cancer.
Some samples dated as far back as 40 years before their diagnosis, the scientists wrote in the journal Annals of Oncology.
The average time between the first positive blood sample collection and a diagnosis of OPSCC was slightly more than 11 years.
Only 0.4 per cent of the patients – 22 of them – in the group without cancer had HPV antibodies present in their blood samples.
However, they were present in 27.2 per cent of white people before they were diagnosed with a form of throat cancer.
They were also present in 7.7 per cent of black people before diagnosis. It is