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Tooth Cavities Linked to Lower Risk of Head, Neck Cancer in Study

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Posted September 16, 2013

People with more cavities in their teeth may have a reduced risk for some head and neck cancers, a new study suggests.

That’s because lactic acid bacteria produced by cavities may be protective against cancer cells, the study authors said.

“This was an unexpected finding since dental cavities have been considered a sign of poor oral health along with periodontal disease, and we had previously observed an increased risk of head and neck cancers among subjects with periodontal disease,” said lead researcher Dr. Mine Tezal, an assistant professor at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York.

Tezal was quick to note, however, that the finding doesn’t mean people should let cavities develop in hopes of preventing these cancers.

“The main message is to avoid things that would shift the balance in normal microbial ecology, including overuse of antimicrobial products and smoking. Rather, you should maintain a healthy diet and good oral hygiene, by brushing and flossing,” she said.

The report was published Sept. 12 in the online edition of JAMA Otolaryngology — Head & Neck Surgery.

For the study, Tezal’s team evaluated 399 patients with head and neck cancers, comparing them to 221 similar people without cancer.

The investigators found that the people with the most cavities were the ones least likely to have head and neck cancer, compared to those with the fewest cavities. Those with the most cavities had a 32 percent lower risk even after factors such as sex, marital status, smoking and alcohol use were taken into account.

Read more at: MedlinePlus

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