The medical and scientific communities have been debating the potential relationship between mouthwash and oral cancer for decades. Now a new meta-analysis has found no statistically significant association between mouthwash use and risk of oral cancer (Annals of Agricultural and Environmental Medicine, June 27, 2012, Vol. 19:2, pp. 173-180).
Researchers from the European Institute of Oncology, the International Prevention Research Research Institute, and the Istituto di Ricerche Farmacologiche Mario Negri conducted a quantitative meta-analysis of epidemiological studies of mouthwash and oral cancer and, specifically, mouthwash containing more than 25% alcohol.
"The potential association between use of mouthwash and an increased risk of oral cancer has been a source of controversy for several decades," the researchers wrote. "In recent times, attention has focused on a role for those mouthwashes containing alcohol on impacting the risk of oral cancer."
A total of 18 studies were included in the meta-analysis. The researchers identified no statistically significant associations found between regular use of mouthwash and risk of oral cancer, no significant trend in risk of oral cancer associated with increased daily usage of mouthwash (p = 0.11), and no association between reported use of mouthwash specifically containing alcohol and risk of oral cancer.
While this quantitative analysis of mouthwash use and oral malignancy revealed no statistically significant associations, the researchers noted, "there is a need to undertake studies in which more attention is given to the investigation of the effect of mouthwash use at different points throughout the life of subjects with a focus on the reasons for using mouthwash and the particular types of mouthwash used."