Poor oral health is associated with a 75 per cent increased risk of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the most common form of liver cancer, a study suggests.
Published in the United European Gastroenterology Journal, the study investigated the association between oral health conditions and the risk of a number of gastrointestinal cancers, including liver, colon, rectum and pancreatic cancer.
Models were applied to estimate the relationship between cancer risk and self-reported oral health conditions, such as painful or bleeding gums, mouth ulcers and loose teeth.
“Poor oral health has been associated with the risk of several chronic diseases, such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes”, said the study lead author Haydee WT Jordao from Queen’s University Belfast.
According to the researchers, of the 469,628 participants from the UK, 4,069 developed gastrointestinal cancer during the (average) six-year follow up. In 13 per cent of these cases, patients reported poor oral health.
Participants with poor oral health were more likely to be younger, female, living in deprived socio-economic areas and consumed less than two portions of fruit and vegetables per day.
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,” Jordao said.
“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,” he added.