What Is The Relationship Between Poor Oral Health And Cancer?

Something as simple as daily brushing and flossing could lead to better health outcomes. Researchers are finding that gum disease and inflammation in your mouth may increase the risk for developing cancer later in life. 

Gum disease is caused by bacteria-filled plaque that forms on teeth. As more plaque builds, infection becomes more likely, usually starting as gingivitis. If the infection continues, periodontal disease has a higher likelihood of developing, which has been correlated with increased rates of cancer later in life. Although periodontal disease can be a result of poor oral hygiene, it is also more likely to develop in those who smoke and drink alcohol frequently - two risk factors for a cancer diagnosis.

Exposure to pathogens have been found to be linked to the formation of tumors and other inflammatory diseases. Researchers explain that pathogens in your mouth can end up in your stomach, esophagus, and lungs. Although no direct cause and effect relationship has been found between gum disease and the risk in developing cancer, many studies have found an association, which makes a good argument for more research.

Women with gum disease are at an even greater risk for developing cancer, and often are the population that researchers focus on when conducting their studies. In a follow-up study, women with a history of periodontal disease "were more than three times as likely to develop esophageal cancer—and nearly twice as likely to develop gallbladder cancer—than women without."  Amanda MacMillan "Why Inflammation in Your Mouth May Raise Your Risk of Cancer" www.time.com (Aug. 09, 2018).


Commentary and Checklist

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that in 2012, there were about 40,000 new cases of cancer of the oral cavity, with nearly 9,000 deaths. Mortality is nearly twice as high for black males as it is for whites. Early detection is the key to increasing survival rates.

Prevention includes not using tobacco products or excessive alcohol. Avoid contracting the Oral Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) which can cause cancers in the back of the throat.

Meanwhile, here are some tips regarding prevention of cancer in general to discuss with your health care provider:

  • Exercise has been specifically linked to a reduction in the occurrence of breast, prostate, lung, uterine and colon cancers.
  • Stop smoking or using tobacco products. Smoking has been linked to various types of cancer-including lung, bladder, cervix and kidney.
  • Eliminate exposure to secondhand smoke.
  • Eat a healthy diet may reduce your risk of cancer with plenty of fruits and vegetables, limited fat, and moderate alcohol consumption.
  • Brightly colored fruits and vegetables are among the best foods to eat to help avoid cancer. They contain antioxidants and powerful vitamins that help cells function correctly and boost the immune system.
  • Increase fiber intake. Fiber is a substance found in foods that helps move food through the digestive system.
  • Good fiber sources include fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains.
  • Avoid processed foods, which frequently contain many additives and preservatives.
  • Limit your consumption of saturated fats, frequently found in animal products like meat, dairy products and eggs. Replace saturated fats with unsaturated fats found in olive oil, canola oil, avocados, and nuts.
  • Maintain a healthy weight to lower the risk of various types of cancer, including cancer of the breast, prostate, lung, colon and kidney.
  • For substantial health benefits, you can also do a combination of moderate and vigorous activity. As a general goal, include at least 30 minutes of physical activity in your daily routine.
  • Protect yourself from skin cancer by avoiding the midday sun, covering exposed areas, and using lots of sunscreen, applied often. Avoid tanning beds and sunlamps.
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