The test will enable doctors to rule out cancer in patients presenting with certain symptoms, saving time and preventing unnecessary invasive procedures such as colonoscopies and biopsies being carried out.
Early results have shown the test gives a high degree of accuracy diagnosing cancer and pre-cancerous conditions from the blood of patients with melanoma, colon cancer and lung cancer, said researchers from the University of Bradford in UK.
The Lymphocyte Genome Sensitivity (LGS) test looks at white blood cells and measures the damage caused to their DNA when subjected to different intensities of ultraviolet light (UVA), which is known to damage DNA.
The results of the empirical study show a clear distinction between the damage to the white blood cells from patients with cancer, with pre-cancerous conditions and from healthy patients.
"White blood cells are part of the body's natural defence system. We know that they are under stress when they are fighting cancer or other diseases, so I wondered whether anything measurable could be seen if we put them under further stress with UVA light," said Professor Diana Anderson, from the University's School of Life Sciences who led the research.
"We found that people with cancer have DNA which is more easily damaged by ultraviolet light than other people, so the test shows the sensitivity to damage of all the DNA - the genome - in a cell," Anderson said.
The study looked at blood samples taken from 208 individuals.
Ninety-four healthy individuals were recruited from staff and students at the University of Bradford and 114 blood samples were collected from patients referred to specialist clinics within Bradford Royal Infirmary prior to diagnosis and treatment.
The samples were coded, anonymised, randomised and then exposed to UVA light.
The UVA damage was observed in the form of pieces of DNA being pulled in an electric field towards the positive end of the field, causing a comet-like tail.
In the LGS test, the longer the tail the more DNA damage, and the measurements correlated to those patients who were ultimately diagnosed with cancer (58), those with pre-cancerous conditions (56) and those who were healthy (94).
The research was published in FASEB Journal, the US journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.