British scientists claim to have developed a blood test that offers the possibility of spotting cancer long before the symptoms appear.
The test successfully detected early signs of breast cancer in some women and the scientists hope the vital clues will help them to revolutionise cancer prevention by offering cheaper and less invasive screening techniques in the next ten years.
Cancer is a general term for about 100 diseases characterised by uncontrolled, abnormal growth of cells resulting in a mass or tumour that can invade and destroy healthy tissues.
The Southampton University research team studied blood samples collected from 11,000 women over the last 30 years, some of whom later developed cancer.
The researchers looked for biomarkers proteins produced by cancer cells. They have seen significant biomarkers of breast cancer in the samples, reported the online edition of the Daily Mail.
"The quality of the samples has been the key but it is early days. Some of the ladies in the samples were healthy at the time but then went on to develop cancer. We are going back through these time capsules to look for things common in their blood that we can identify as a cancer fingerprint," Paul Townsend, who is leading the study, said.
"We are trying to find out if we can take a sample from someone healthy and see if they could get cancer in the future. We would like to establish a set of rules that we could look for," he said.
An all-purpose cancer blood test could be quicker, cheaper, more accurate and less invasive than other tests.
Other scientists and drugs companies have already announced a range of blood tests for cancer over the last decade.