According to the CDC, cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States behind heart disease. To better understand cancer, researchers are now looking for clues in the mouth. As a result, they have found a connection between the tiny organisms that make up your mouth, aka your oral microbiome, and the risk of this disease.
Like your stomach, your mouth is filled with bacteria. Some good and some bad. The bad bacteria could affect how cancer develops in the body, so researchers have been studying the mouth to find out more.
The Connection Between Oral Health and Cancer Risk
The American Association for Cancer Research found that two strains of oral bacteria could indicate a risk for pancreatic cancer. In this study, scientists reviewed mouth wash samples from 361 people who ended up having this disease. They created a bacteria profile of each sample to understand the link between that type of bacteria and the risk for pancreatic cancer.
They found that one type of bacteria led to a 59% increase in pancreatic cancer risk. Then, they found that another type led to a 119% increase in risk of pancreatic cancers.
In another study, researchers made a connection between gum disease in women and increased risk for cancer. They found that postmenopausal women with periodontal disease had a 14% higher risk of breast, lung and esophageal cancers, and melanoma.
Other studies have shown a link between gum disease and elevated PSA levels, an enzyme made in the prostate that can indicate cancers.
While more research is needed, this data supports the idea that the health of your mouth is tied to the health of your body. To keep your mouth healthy, follow a good dental hygiene routine that includes:
- Brushing and flossing every day
- Visiting your dentist regularly for exams and cleanings
- Limiting alcohol consumption
- Avoiding tobacco products
Don’t have a dentist? It’s easy to find one near you.