One more reason your mother was right about flossing regularly — diseased gums can lead to esophageal cancer, says a new study.
The presence of two kinds of bacteria, especially Tannerella forsythia, is tied to a 21% increase in the odds of developing tumors on the esophagus, a new report from researchers at NYU found. This is on top of the other illnesses that gum disease has already been linked to — including, heart disease, diabetes, stroke and even premature births.
The study tracked the oral health of 122,000 Americans over 10 years and after analyzing the data, the researchers found those two specific strains of bacteria were prevalent in patients with the cancer.
“What is not clear is whether the presence of these bacteria or the resultant periodontal disease is primarily responsible for the development of cancer,” associate director of esophageal endotherapy at Lenox Hill Hospital Anthony Starpoli told CBS. “(But specialists should) consider a proper evaluation of the oral cavity as well as the remainder of the digestive tract in the hope of early diagnosis of esophageal cancer.”
Esophageal cancer is the sixth leading cause of cancer death around the world. It is the eighth most common kind of cancer and because it’s usually diagnosed at a late stage, the five-year survival rates are at or below 25%.
“Esophageal cancer is a highly fatal cancer, and there is an urgent need for new avenues of prevention, risk stratification, and early detection,” the study’s lead author, Jiyoung Ahn, said.
More research is needed to learn about the differences between the good types of mouth bacteria — that could lead to a lower cancer risk — and the dangerous kinds.
“(Pinpointing various bacteria groups) may potentially lead to strategies to prevent esophageal cancer, or at least to identify it at earlier stages,” Ahn said in a statement.
The study noted that common, well-known oral health practices like regular brushing, flossing and dental checkups can all protect against gum disease and the diseases it causes.