Taking care of your teeth just became imperative, for Japanese researchers have found a strong link between tooth loss and increased risk of esophageal, head and neck, and lung cancers.
The boffins from Aichi Cancer Center in Nagoya and Nagoya University Graduate School of Medicine say that that bacterial infection and inflammation resulting from poor oral care that leads to tooth loss may also be what drives the development of these cancers.
"Tooth loss is a common consequence of chronic bacterial infection and may, therefore, serve as a surrogate for chronic infection and inflammation, which in turn may be important to the pathogenesis of cancer," said the study's lead author, Akio Hiraki, Ph.D., a researcher at the Aichi Cancer Center.
As a part of their research, the scientists measured rates of 14 different cancers and rates of tooth loss in 5,240 cancer patients in the country.
This was then compared to 10,480 matched cancer-free participants.
The researchers specifically found that people with tooth loss were 136 percent more likely to develop esophageal cancer, had a 68 percent increased risk of developing head and neck cancer and a 54 percent greater chance of developing lung cancer.
The researchers also found that the rate of cancer increased proportionally to the number of teeth a patient had lost.
"The oral cavity is a gateway between the external environment and the gastrointestinal tract and acts in both food ingestion and digestion," the researchers said.
"Oral hygiene potentially affects gastrointestinal flora and nutritional status and may thus have implications for the development of chronic disease," they added.
They also took into account a patient's history of smoking and alcohol use.
It was also noted that age and gender affected the associations between tooth loss and cancer risk.
For head and neck and esophageal cancers, there were clear associations between tooth loss and cancer risk in women and patients younger than 70 years old, but a less clear link in men and older patients.
The study appears in the May issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.