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According to a new study, blood tests can detect changes in biomarkers up to three years before women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
The research, published online in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, found that several biomarkers, known as CA125, HE4 and mesothelin, increased slightly in ovarian cancer patients beginning approximately three years before the diagnosis was made. Biomarkers in healthy patients showed no elevation over the same period of time.
"Serum markers likely will form a key element in any screening regimen, with the lead time and other parameters of each marker or combination of markers being taken into account," said author of the study Patricia Hartge.
"The careful evaluation technique applied in the current study fits into a staged approach necessary for testing performance of early markers of disease," she added.
Ovarian cancer is often diagnosed too late for effective treatment, making the recent discovery of particular importance. While biomarker elevation was evident three years before cancer detection in several cases, only at a year or less did marker levels become accurate.
"Finding ovarian cancer a year earlier could have a significant impact," said Dr Barbara Goff, director of gynecologic oncology at the University of Washington, quoted by the LA Times. "Even three months makes a huge difference when you're going into someone's belly."
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