Mouth cancer linked with oral health and dental checks


Poor oral health and poor dental care both increase the risk of oral cancer. Using mouthwash more than 3 times a day also increased the risk of mouth cancers.

Cancers of the oral cavity, larynx, oropharynx, hypopharynx and esophagus account for approximately 129,000 new cancer cases annually in the European Union.

While the most important risk factors are considered to be consumption of alcohol and tobacco (with a greater than multiplicative joint effects); it has also been suggested that a lack of oral hygiene and poor oral health are risk factors for such cancers, independent from smoking and alcohol consumption.

In this study, funded by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), investigators led by Wolfgang Ahrens and Paul Brennan interviewed 1963 patients with UADT cancers (recruited from 13 centers in nine European countries) and 1993 controls about oral health and dental care behaviors.

Evaluating Oral Health & Dental Care

The investigators constructed a composite weighted score of oral health (OH) based on three variables: wearing of dentures, age at starting to wear dentures, and frequency of gum bleeding from brushing teeth; and dental care (DC) behavior based on the variables frequency of tooth cleaning, use of tooth brush, toothpaste or dental floss and frequency of visiting a dentist.

Subjects were also asked about smoking, alcohol drinking, diet, occupations, medical conditions and socio-economic status.

Study results

Results showed that patients with low DC scores had an OR of 2.36 for developing such cancers in comparison to those with high scores; and that patients with low OH scores had a OR of 2.22 for developing such cancers in comparison to those with high scores.

Furthermore, the OR for frequent use of mouthwash (three or more times/day) was 3.23.

“In conclusion our study provides further evidence for an elevated risk of these kinds of cancer associated with poor oral health and poor dental care that is not explained by smoking, alcohol or other confounding factors,” write the authors, adding that excessive use of mouthwash also increased risk for such cancer.

“But the question whether this effect is mediated by alcohol content or just due to bias or reverse causation cannot be decided with our data.”

The mouth wash data did not allow the investigators to distinguish between alcohol-containing relative to alcohol-free mouth wash. Furthermore, the investigators add, using mouthwash three plus times/day might indicate some underlying oral disease since people with oral problems are more likely to use mouth wash.


Source: eCancer News:

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