To find out more, the researchers analysed data from 469,000 people in the UK, to see if there was indeed a connection between oral health conditions and the risk of a number of gastrointestinal cancers, including liver, colon, rectum and pancreatic cancer.
While no significant associations were observed on the risk of the majority gastrointestinal cancers and poor oral health, a substantial link was found for hepatobiliary cancer, the most common form of liver cancer.Over the six years of follow up 4,069 developed gastrointestinal cancer. In 13% of these cases patients reported poor oral health. Those with poor oral health were more likely to be younger, female, living in deprived socioeconomic areas and consuming less than two portions of fruit and vegetables per day, according to the study published in the United European Gastroenterology Journal.
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A preventable diseaseLiver cancer is the sixth bigger cancer killer in the EU, claiming the lives of almost 60,000 people per year. The five-year survival rate for the disease across Europe is just 11% and approximately nine in 10 cases are in individuals over the age of 55. It is believed that up to half of cases of liver cancer are preventable, with risk factors often relating to lifestyle, such as being overweight or obese, smoking and alcohol consumption. The biological mechanisms by which poor oral health may be more strongly associated with liver cancer, rather than other digestive cancers, is currently uncertain. One explanation is the potential role of the oral and gut microbiome in disease development. “The liver contributes to the elimination of bacteria from the human body,” stated Dr Jordão.
“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. 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.”
- For more on good oral healthcare see our article Naturally healthy teeth and gums