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Scientists have found that a person's mouth could provide a window into the damage caused to their lungs by smoking.
Researchers at the University of Texas discovered that cells lining the mouth reflect the molecular damage that smoking does to the lining of the lungs.
Dr Li Mao, a member of the research team, suggested that the new findings could help to spare patients and those at risk of lung cancer from some of the more invasive procedures that are used now.
Rather than undergoing a bronchoscopy, doctors can simply brush the inside of the cheek with a swab.
"Our study opens the door to enhancing our ability to predict who has higher probability of getting tobacco-related cancers," Dr Mao added.
Recent studies have also found that gum disease, or periodontitis, can contribute to illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and pneumonia.
Scientists believe the cause of the link may be bacteria from the mouth getting into the bloodstream.
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