Irish researchers have found that poor dental hygiene increases the risk of liver cancer by 75%.
Researchers at Queen’s University in Belfast, Ireland, investigated the links between oral health problems and the risk of gastrointestinal cancers, including cancer of the liver, colon, rectum and pancreas. After following a cohort of more than 469,000 people in the UK, they found that poor oral health was associated with a 75% increase in the risk of hepatocellular carcinoma, the most common form of liver cancer.
“Poor oral hygiene has been associated with the risk of several heart diseases such as stroke and diabetes,” said Dr. Haydée Jordão, of Queen’s University of Belfast Public Health Center, lead author of the study. “We wanted to check the link with gastrointestinal cancers”.
The biological mechanisms by which poor oral health may be more associated with liver cancer are yet to be discovered. The first explanation would be the potential role of the oral and intestinal microbiome in the development of the disease. “The liver helps eliminate bacteria from the human body,” said Dr. Haydee WT Jordão. “When the liver is affected by certain diseases such as hepatitis or cirrhosis this function decreases and bacteria survive longer and can therefore cause more damage.” One bacterium in particular, Fusobacterium nucleatum, which originates in the oral cavity, may have a role in the development of cancer.
Another explanation is that people with oral problems consume softer and potentially less nutritious foods, which influences the risk of liver cancer.