Hygiene: Brush your teeth to avoid cancer

For those who aren’t convinced by the usual reasons for taking care of your teeth, a team from the TH Chan School of Public Health at Harvard, Boston, has discovered additional reasons.

People with a history of periodontal (gum) disease – which is usually caused by poor brushing and flossing habits leading to plaque build-up – appeared to be associated with an increased risk of esophageal cancer and of the stomach.

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Researchers examined the link between a history of gum disease and tooth loss and the risk of these cancers in more than 98,000 women as part of the Nursing Health Study, which ran from 1992 in 2014, and in nearly 50,000 men as part of the follow-up study of health professionals, which took place between 1988 and 2016.

Over the 22 to 28 years of follow-up, here is what the results showed. For 199 cases of esophageal cancer and 238 cases of stomach cancer, a history of gum disease was associated with a 43% increased risk of esophageal cancer and a 52% increased risk of stomach cancer .

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It has also been noticed that this risk is higher in people who have lost their teeth. Compared with people who did not lose teeth, these risks (of cancer of the esophagus and stomach) for people who lost two or more teeth were 42% and 33%, respectively.

“Together, these data confirm the importance of the oral microbiota in cancer of the esophagus and stomach. Further prospective studies that directly assess the oral microbiota are warranted to identify the specific oral bacteria responsible for this relationship. The additional results may serve as easily accessible non-invasive biomarkers and help identify individuals at high risk for these cancers, ”the authors wrote in a letter published in the journal Gut about the prospective study.

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