A new study published in UEG Journal has found that poor oral health is associated with a 75% increased risk of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) - the most common type of liver cancer.
The study, by researchers at Queen’s University Belfast, analysed a large cohort of over 469,000 people in the UK, investigating the association between oral health conditions and the risk of a number of gastrointestinal cancers, including liver, colon, rectum and pancreatic cancer.
Whilst no significant associations were observed on the risk of the majority gastrointestinal cancers and poor oral health, a substantial link was found for hepatobiliary cancer.
Models were applied to estimate the relationship between cancer risk and self-reported oral health conditions, such as painful or bleeding gums, mouth ulcers and loose teeth.
Poor oral health has been “Associated with the risk of several chronic diseases, such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes”, explained Dr Haydée WT Jordão, from the Centre of Public Health at Queen’s University Belfast and lead author of the study.
He continued, “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.”
“The liver contributes to the elimination of bacteria from the human body. 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.”
Liver cancer is the sixth bigger cancer killer in the EU, claiming the lives of almost 60,000 people per year. The five-year survival rate for the disease across Europe is just 11%4 and approximately nine in 10 cases are in individuals over the age of 55.