JUN 22, 2019 8:19 AM PDT

Did you know unhealthy gums cause cancer?

Have you flossed recently? New research links poor gum health to liver cancer, adding the disease to the long list of other conditions which are also associated with unhealthy gums (stroke, heart disease, diabetes, and some other cancers).

The study comes from UK researchers led by Haydée W. T. Jordão, from the Centre of Public Health at Queen's University Belfast in the U.K. It was published in the United European Gastroenterology Journal and found that individuals with poor oral health, like sore or bleeding gums or loose teeth, had a 75% higher risk of developing liver cancer. Their conclusions were based on data from the U.K. Biobank project.

Jordão says the study was inspired by, “[the] inconsistent evidence on the association between poor oral health and specific types of gastrointestinal cancers, which is what our research aimed to examine."

The study analyzed not only liver cancer, but all digestive system cancers, including cancers of the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, colon, rectum, anus, liver, bile ducts, and pancreas.

The study was composed of data on 469,628 people from England, Scotland, and Wales who were between 40 and 69 years of age. Of those individuals, 4,069 developed gastrointestinal cancer over an average follow-up of 6 years. According to Medical News Today, “Of the individuals who developed digestive cancer, 13% had reported having poor oral health at the start of the study period.”

While the researchers did not find a connection between oral health and overall risk of gastrointestinal cancer, they did determine correlations between poor oral health and hepatobiliary cancers, like cancers of the liver, gallbladder, or bile ducts. Poor oral healthy particularly increased the risk for one form of liver cancer, called hepatocellular carcinoma, up to 75%.

Poor oral health is linked to several conditions like stroke, heart disease, and cancers. Photo: Pixabay

While the researchers are still uncertain of the reasons behind their findings, Jordão hopes to continue this work, stating, "Further studies investigating the microbiome and liver cancer are therefore warranted."

Sources: Medical News TodayUnited European Gastroenterology Journal

About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
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