Sep 15, 2013

What? Tooth Cavities May Protect Against Cancer

John Gever reports at MedPage Today on a new study conducted by researchers from the University of Buffalo, which found that people with more cavities in their teeth are 32 percent less likely to suffer from head and neck cancers. 'To our knowledge, the present study suggests, for the first time, an independent association between dental caries and head and neck squamous cell carcinoma.' The researchers proposed a mechanism for the apparent protective effect: that cariogenic, lactic acid-producing bacteria prompt cell-mediated Th1 immune responses that suppress tumor formation. The team examined records of patients older than 21 seen in the university's dental and maxillofacial prosthetics department from 1999 to 2007, identifying 399 who were newly diagnosed with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma. Assuming that the association between caries and reduced cancer risk is real, the team suggests that one could regard the cariogenic bacteria as beneficial overall, with caries 'a form of collateral damage.' Therefore an appropriate strategy could be to target that effect specifically without aggressively targeting the bacteria. 'Antimicrobial treatment, vaccination, or gene therapy against cariogenic bacteria may lead to more harm than good in the long run.'

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