Burlingame Dental Arts in Portland, OR
Burlingame Dental Arts in Portland, OR

Poor Oral Health Linked To Throat Cancer

added on: September 9, 2019

As your Burlingame dentist, our staff at Burlingame Dental Arts believes that every patient should know about any risks to their long-term oral health. After all, recent studies have found that individuals who suffer from poor oral health have a significantly higher risk of suffering from a variety of long-term chronic illnesses, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes and dementia. Now a new study suggests that poor oral health could also increase an individual’s risk of throat cancer.

Researchers at the University of Louisville School of Dentistry have found a bacterial species responsible for gum disease – Porphyromonas gingivalis – is present in approximately 61 percent of patients with esophageal, or throat, cancer. Published in the journal Infectious Agents and Cancer, the study’s findings detected P. gingivalis in 12 percent of tissues located next to cancer cells in the throats of patients, while the bacteria was undetected in healthy throat tissue.

Links To Throat Cancer

The results of this study provide the first direct evidence that P. gingivalis infection could rank as a risk factor for throat cancer, and could even serve as an early warning sign for doctors that patients have an increased risk for this type of cancer, stated researchers involved in the study. If confirmed, researchers believe this data may indicate that the elimination of common oral bacteria could help to reduce the number of patients suffering from throat cancer.

A muscular tube that plays a vital role in the movement of food from the mouth to the stomach, the esophagus is lined with two primary types of cells, which results in two different types of throat cancers: squamous cell and adenocarcinoma carcinoma. The former is more common in the developing world.

As part of this latest study, researchers tested samples of tissue from 100 patients suffering from squamous cell throat cancer and from 30 healthy study participants.

Researchers measured the expression of an enzyme uniquely identifiable in P. gingivalis and for the presence of bacterial cell DNA found in throat tissue. Both the DNA and enzyme were significantly higher in the cancerous tissues of throat cancer patients than in the surrounding tissue of the healthy study participants. Researchers also discovered the presence of P. gingivalis correlated with additional factors, such as overall survival rate, metastasis and cancer cell differentiation.

Researchers identified two potential explanations: P. gingivalis prefer cancer cells to grow in or the infection of P. gingivalis helps to cause the development of throat cancer.

Should researchers confirm that P. gingivalis causes throat cancer, it would suggest that improving oral health could reduce an individuals risk of the disease. Screening for P. gingivalis in dental offices could help identify patients at a higher risk of throat cancer, and the use of antibiotics targeted to destroy P. gingivalis could help to prevent further development of existing cancerous cells.

The Risk Of Oral Cancer

Approximately 15,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with throat cancer each year, according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As with the majority of cancers, there are a variety of factors such as age, heredity, diet and chemical exposure that could increase a patients risk for cancer. However, your Burlingame dentist remains hopeful that further breakthroughs like this recent study will continue to help shed the light on more early detection techniques that will increase survival rates for cancer patients everywhere.

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