In need of an extra incentive to brush your teeth this Monday morning? Well, they don’t come much better than this. According to a new study published in the journal Cell Host & Microbe a common type of mouth bacteria may contribute to colorectal cancer.
Colon cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and the second leading cause of cancer death in both men and women in the US. The American Cancer Society estimates that almost 143,000 people will be diagnosed in 2013 and that more than 50,000 will die of the disease.
The bacteria at issue – Fusobacterium nucleatum is a key component of periodontal plaque and plays a role in periodontal disease. But, according to the researchers from Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine, it can also attach to colon cells and trigger a sequence of changes that lead to colon cancer. Although they noted that levels of F. nucleatum are much higher in people with gum disease, than in those without, it was not possible to prove a cause and effect relationship.
Nevertheless, the findings emphasize the importance of good oral hygiene.
The research team also found a way to prevent the bacteria from attaching to colon cells. “This discovery creates the potential for new diagnostic tools and therapies to treat and prevent colon cancer,” says lead investigator Yiping Han.
Until such time, SRxA’s Word on Health will be focused on flossing.