Last updated on Jul 7th, 2020 at 02:22 pm

Brush up on your oral health, new research has found that not looking after your teeth may increase your risk of liver cancer by a whopping 75 percent.

Researchers at Queen’s University Belfast analysed data from over 469 000 people in the UK investigating the association between oral health and the risk of a number of gastrointestinal cancers, including liver, colon, rectum and pancreatic cancer.

The found a substantial link between poor oral health and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the most common form of liver cancer.

“Poor oral health has been associated with the risk of several chronic diseases, such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes,” explains Dr Haydée WT Jordão, from the Centre of Public Health at Queen’s University Belfast and lead author of the study. “However, there is inconsistent evidence on the association between poor oral health and specific types of gastrointestinal cancers, which is what our research aimed to examine.”

Of the 469 628 participants, 4 069 developed gastrointestinal cancer during the (average) six-year follow up. In 13% of these cases, patients reported poor oral health.

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Participants with poor oral health were more likely to be younger, female, living in deprived socioeconomic areas and consumed less than two portions of fruit and vegetables per day.

What links poor oral health to liver cancer

The reason 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,” says Dr Jordão. “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. One bacteria, Fusobacterium nucleatum, originates in the oral cavity but its role in liver cancer is unclear. Further studies investigating the microbiome and liver cancer are therefore warranted.”

Another theory in explaining the higher cancer risk due to poor oral health suggests that participants with a high number of missing teeth may alter their diet, consuming softer and potentially less nutritious foods, which in turn influence the risk of liver cancer.

Liver cancer is the sixth bigger cancer killer in the EU with a five-year survival of just 11 percent. It is believed that up to half of cases of liver cancer are preventable and are the result of being overweight or obesity, smoking and drinking alcohol.

Source: SAGE via

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