Oral health, gut microbiome and cancer prevention: Poor dental hygiene is associated with 75 percent INCREASED RISK of liver cancer
01/28/2020 // Michael Alexander // Views

As it turns out, regularly brushing and flossing your teeth protects more than just your smile.

In a new study published in the United European Gastrenterology Journal, researchers from Queen's University Belfast said poor oral health may be linked to an increased risk for a specific type of liver cancer.

According to Haydée WT Jordão, a researcher at the Centre of Public Health at Queen's University Belfast and lead author of the study, the research team analyzed a large cohort of over 469,000 people in the UK in order to investigate the association between poor oral health conditions and the risk for a number of gastrointestinal cancers – including those of the liver, colon, rectum and pancreas – as there is inconsistent evidence on the association between the two.

Poor oral hygiene has been previously linked to higher risk for chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

In their study, Jordão, noted that while they did not find any significant associations between poor oral health and the risk for gastrointestinal cancers, they were able to find enough evidence linking it to a 75 percent increase in the risk for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) – the most common form of liver malignancy and a leading cause of cancer-related death worldwide.

According to the researchers, liver cancer is currently the sixth bigger "cancer killer" in the European Union, with the disease claiming the lives of almost 60,000 people per year.

This type of cancer, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS), has two growth patterns: the first is a single tumor that grows larger and expands to other parts of the liver as it matures, while the second pattern starts from small malignant nodules that develop throughout the liver. The latter is seen in people with cirrhosis and is the most common type of HCC in the US. (Related: Milk thistle shows promise in treating liver cancer.)


According to a statement by leading dental health charity Oral Health Foundation, the research should serve as a reminder to the public that “the benefits of looking after your oral health go beyond a healthy mouth.”

“Taking a relatively small amount of time each day to keep a clean and healthy mouth can make you far less likely to encounter some serious conditions in the future,” Nigel Carter OBE, Chief Executive of the Oral Health Foundation, said.

Tips on how to prevent liver cancer

Despite the negative information uncovered by the new study, medical experts say liver cancer is still preventable, as its risk factors such as obesity, tobacco use, consumption of alcohol and now, poor oral health, can be easily addressed by making healthy lifestyle choices, such as:

  • Limiting your consumption and use of alcohol and tobacco -- According to the ACS, these substances increase one’s risk for liver cirrhosis, which can lead to the development of liver cancer.
  • Maintaining good oral health -- Make it a habit to brush and floss your teeth after every meal.
  • Maintaining a healthy weight -- Numerous studies have shown that people with obesity are more likely to develop fatty liver disease or non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) and Type 2 diabetes, both of which are linked to liver cancer.
  • Avoiding anabolic steroids -- Often used by bodybuilders and professional athletes to increase their muscle mass, these synthetic hormones have been linked to a slight increase in the risk for hepatocellular cancer, as well as a host of other serious health complications.

Find out more about the importance of taking care of your teeth for overall health at OralHealth.news.

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