Bad news: Almost every one of us has a virus that causes cancer, according to USC research released today. And it's in our mouths.

The good news: Doctors might be able to treat it if it goes darkside and creates tumors in your pie hole (yeah, we said tumors in your pie hole).

USC's Laboratory for Developmental Genetics today confirmed that cytomegalovirus (CMV) has joined a list of less than ten known cancer-causing viruses in humans that includes the dreaded HPV.

Unfortunately, according to the work just published in Experimental and Molecular Pathology, the virus is in nearly every one of us. It has a Jekyll and Hyde personality.

But it needs to be triggered to show its evil intentions. Michael Melnick, professor of developmental genetics:

CMV is incredibly common; most of us likely carry it because of our exposure to it. In healthy patients with normal immune systems, it becomes dormant and resides inactive in the salivary glands. No one knows what reactivates it.

Maybe you don't want to know. Salivary cancer is ugly. It usually isn't caught until later stages. And it messes up your face. USC:

… Salivary gland cancers can be particularly problematic because they often go undiagnosed until they reach a late stage. And since the affected area is near the face, surgical treatment can be quite extensive and seriously detrimental to a patient's quality of life.

Eek. But this new identification might lead to treatments that could nip the cancer in the bud, USC professor of developmental genetics Tina Jaskoll says:

This could allow us to have more rational design of drugs used to treat these tumors.

Ahem. Hope so.


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