People with poor oral health may be at higher risk of liver cancer.
A study conducted at the Queen’s University Belfast shows that poor oral health increases the risk of liver cancer by 75 percent.
“Poor oral health has been associated with the risk of several chronic diseases, such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes,” said Dr. Haydee WT Jordao of the Center of Public Health, Queen’s University Belfast.
“However, there is inconsistent evidence on the association between poor oral health and specific types of gastrointestinal cancers, which is what our research aimed to examine,” said Dr. Jordao, the study’s lead researcher.
The study, which covered over 469,000 people in the United Kingdom, looked at the association between self-reported oral health conditions and the risk of a gastrointestinal cancer, including liver, colon, rectum and pancreatic cancer.
Self-reported oral health conditions included painful or bleeding gums, mouth ulcers and loose teeth.
During a six-year follow-up period, 4,069 of the study participants developed gastrointestinal cancer.
Over one in 10 (13 percent) of the 4,096 patients reported having oral health issues on account of being young, female, socioeconomically challenged, and/or malnourished to the point of consuming less than two portions of fruits and vegetables per day, Science Daily reported.
The biological mechanism why liver cancer is associated with poor oral health is not currently clear. It may be that oral and gut microbiome – that microscopic world of microbes in the mouth and stomach – plays significant roles in the development of diseases.
“The liver contributes to the elimination of bacteria from the human body. When the liver is affected by diseases, such as hepatitis, cirrhosis or cancer, its function will decline and bacteria will survive for longer and therefore have the potential to cause more harm,” said Dr. Jordao.
“One bacteria, Fusobacterium nucleatum, originates in the oral cavity but its role in liver cancer is unclear. Further studies investigating the microbiome and liver cancer are therefore warranted.”
Another factor may be that participants with a high number of missing teeth may alter their diet, consuming softer and potentially less nutritious foods. This, in turn, may influence the risk of liver cancer.
Liver cancer is the sixth-largest diagnosed cancer. About nine in 10 cases are detected in individuals over the age of 55.
The ailment is highly lethal, killing almost 60,000 people each year in the European Union countries alone. Across Europe, the five-year cancer survival rate is as low as 11 percent.
While that may sound alarming, the risk of getting cancer may be significantly lowered if harmful lifestyles like not smoking and drinking alcohol excessively are stopped. Healthy diets and regular exercise also help.
So does practicing the proper oral hygiene such as brushing and flossing the teeth after each and every meal. And of course, by regular visits to the dentist./WDJ