Cheek swabs could help detect lung cancer early

Cheek swabs could help detect lung cancer early

The technique - called partial wave spectroscopic (PWS) microscopy - could distinguish between patients with lung cancer from those without.

This holds true even if the non-cancerous patients are lifetime smokers or had suffered from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Lung cancer is the second most common cancer in England and Wales, which claimed 29,660 lives in 2007, according to the journal Cancer Research.

The condition is notoriously difficult to detect in its early stages but researchers say they could soon have a new way of screening for the disease thanks to the recent breakthrough, reports the Daily Mail.

Scientists from Northwestern University and New York University in the US realised that patients with lung cancer have telltale signs of rough and clumped distribution of chromatin (the material that makes up chromosomes) in their cheek cells.

They can uncover them by scattering light over the cells as it bounces back differently than it does from the smoother surface of healthy cells.

Lead researcher Hemant Roy of NorthShore University HealthSystems, US, said: "This study is important because it provides the proof of the concept that a minimally intrusive, risk-stratification technique may allow us to tailor screening for lung cancer."