A saliva test could soon be used to help identify if women will be diagnosed with breast cancer, according to a study.

The study was led by Professor Gareth Evans from Manchester University who sampled the saliva of 2,500 women.

A decade later, the women were presented again and the research showed that 644 were diagnosed with breast cancer.

“If all these women took drugs to prevent breast cancer, that could prevent a quarter of breast cancer cases and potentially save the lives of 2,000 women a year,” he said.

“If young women at high risk were offered annual mammograms, that could save hundreds more a year.

“It is particularly important for women under 50, who make up one in five cases of breast cancer.”

Breast cancer is cancer that starts in the breast tissue and occurs when abnormal cells in the breast grow in an uncontrolled way.

It can develop at any age and is more common in women but also affects a small number of men each year.

“Breast cancer can be an incredibly difficult and personal journey for women,” Professor Evans said.

“We know that genetics plays a major role in determining whether women are at higher or lower risk of the disease, alongside more ‘traditional’ risk factors.”

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This article first appeared on OverSixty.