Scientists have discovered a total of 231 previously unknown genes associated with head and neck cancers.
Only 33 genes had previously been linked to the cancers before the breakthrough research, which is expected to open doors to diagnostic tests and treatments.
The study’s leader, Dr Maria Worsham, from Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, said: “These new genes should advance selection of head and neck-specific gene targets, opening the door to promising new molecular strategies for the early detection and treatment of head and neck cancer.
“It also may offer the opportunity to help monitor disease progression and a patient’s response to treatment.”
More than 5,000 Britons are diagnosed with oral cancers of the mouth, lip and tongue each year. The diseases, which are heavily linked to tobacco use and drinking alcohol, are responsible for 1,851 deaths a year.
The 231 new genes linked to head and neck cancer were identified after scientists analysed five DNA samples and focused on 1,043 potential cancer genes.