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New hope for oral cancer sufferers

23rd May 2006

Scientists in Finland have produced a brand of chewing gum which could help to prevent certain oral cancers associated with smoking and drinking, according to Medical News Today.

Launched at the International Congress of Oral Cancer from May 14th to 17th, the chewing gum contains an amino-acid called l-cysteine which is thought to help reduce exposure to acetaldehyde, a likely carcinogen.

Acetaldehyde is found in tobacco smoke and is also produced when the body metabolises ethanol. It is thought to be instrumental in the onset of cancers of the upper digestive tract.

The amino-acid l-cysteine has long been known to bind with acetaldehyde, eliminating its toxicity.

Professor Salaspuro and Professor Martti Marvola, both of the University of Helsinki, developed preparations containing the amino-acid for use in the prevention of digestive tract cancers.

The chewing gum releases l-cysteine as it is chewed, eliminating the acetaldehyde produced during smoking or alcohol consumption.

"We know that, with this chewing gum, it is possible to eliminate acetaldehyde totally from the saliva during smoking," Professor Salaspuro tells Medical News Today.

"We do hope that this will in the future turn out to be a novel method for the prevention of alcohol and tobacco smoking associated oral cancers."

The researchers are now planning studies to demonstrate the extent of the product's cancer preventing properties.