We May Soon Be Able to Predict Cancer Years Before It Happens

doctor going over results with a womanEven if you aren't planning on jumping on the iWatch bandwagon, you may already be tracking your daily steps on a pedometer, your calories burned on an elliptical, or be collecting a whole other host of data about your health. The more, the better, right? Hence why a new scientific discovery that could predict cancer up to 13 years in the future is pretty miraculous.

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Researchers at Harvard and Northwestern University discovered that tiny but significant changes begin to take form in the body more than a decade before cancer is diagnosed. Specifically, protective caps called telomeres on the ends of chromosomes, which prevent DNA damage, had much more wear and tear in people who went on to develop cancer.

Okay, it may not initially sound like a HUGE discovery, but Dr. Lifang Hou, the lead study author and a professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, explains that these stunted telomeres could be a predictive biomarker for cancer.

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If someday, a test could check your telomeres for these developments, docs may be able to use it to diagnose a wide variety of cancers waaaay ahead of time. Which would be amazing, because it could allow people the time to tweak certain lifestyle factors (diet, exercise, quitting smoking, etc.) that could lower their risk.

The researchers also hope that this discovery could lead to treatments that cause cancer cells to self-destruct without harming healthy cells. Cheers to that. Fingers crossed this is is a major step forward to preventing and curing cancer -- something we can all get behind.

Would you want to know so far ahead of time that you appeared to be headed toward a cancer diagnosis?


 

Image via iStock.com/Mark Bowden

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