Belfast, Northern Ireland—Poor oral health is associated with a 75% increased risk of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the most common form of liver cancer, according to new research published in UEG Journal.
The study, performed by researchers at Queen’s University Belfast, analyzed a cohort of over 469,000 people in the UK, according to a press release on the study. It investigated the association between oral health conditions and the risk of a number of gastrointestinal cancers. While most showed no association, a “substantial link” was found for hepatobiliary cancer.
Dr. Haydée WT Jordão, from the Centre of Public Health at Queen’s University Belfast and lead author of the study, explained in the release: “Poor oral health has been associated with the risk of several chronic diseases, such as heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. 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.”
While researchers aren’t entirely sure why poor oral health is associated with liver cancer, Dr. Jordão suggested that it has to do with the liver’s function: “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.”
Another suggestion is that people with poor oral health can alter peoples’ diets—they may consumer softer, less nutritious foods, which in turn influence the risk of liver cancer.
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