Gum Disease and Cancer Connection

Daniel Vinograd

cancer cellsIf you thought the benefits of brushing your teeth were limited to clean teeth and fresh breath, you may be underestimating the importance of the daily ritual.

Recent research has found that poor dental hygiene could increase your risk of colon cancer.  The research, conducted by a cooperative effort between the Schools of Medicine and Dental Medicine at Hebrew University found that Fusobacterium nucleatum, a common oral bacteria, may inhibit the immune system from fighting cancer.

Study co-authors Dr. Ofer Mandelboim and Dr. Gilad Bachrach found that the bacteria interacted with colon cancer cells to make them less vulnerable to TIGIT, a recently discovered immune cell that may block the spread of cancer.

The bacteria has been previously linked to a host of health issues, including stillbirth, premature birth, and heart disease.  The US National Institutes of Health reports that a pregnant women with gingivitis (common during pregnancy), developed a respiratory infection and her child was stillborn.  The NIH reports the respiratory infection may have weakened the woman’s immune system sufficiently to allow the F. nucleatum bacteria access to her uterus via her bloodstream.

This is the first study that shows a definite connection between the bacteria and deterioration in the health of cancer patients.

When the bacteria reached the colon cancer cells, a protein known as Fap2 in the outer membrane attached to the TIGIT cells and inhibited their function, compromising their ability to attack the cancer cells, which allowed the cancer cells to spread.

Oral bacteria finds its way to the colon in exactly the same way it ends up anywhere else in the body, via the bloodstream.  This research could lead to new ways of fighting cancer.  If the bacteria is interfering with the ability of immune cells to fight cancer, then keeping the bacteria from interacting with either cancer cells or immune cells could improve the body’s ability to fight cancer.

One member of the research team explains the next step is to find out if removing the Fap2 protein from the bacteria, or finding a way to prevent it from binding to TIGIT could improve the outcomes of cancer patients.

An individual’s risk of cancer depends on a variety of different factors, such as age, lifestyle, environment, and genetics.  Brushing and flossing everyday may not necessarily lower your cancer risk significantly, but good oral hygiene can certainly minimize the bacteria in the mouth and keep it from migrating to the colon.

 

Call for a free oral cancer screening: (619) 640-5100

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Dr. Daniel Vinograd, DDS |
10450 Friars Rd, San Diego, CA 92120 |
Phone: 619-630-7174    •    Dr. Vinograd, DDS, is a Dentist in San Diego, CA, offering services as a periodontist, and providing teeth whitening, dental crowns, invisalign, implants, lumineers, dentures, root canals, holistic, family and cosmetic dentistry.


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