Study links periodontitis with oral cancer

Periodontitis is associated with an increased risk of oral cancer, while dental caries is associated with a decreased risk, according to a study being presented this week at the International Association for Dental Research (IADR) meeting in Seattle.

The case-control study, led by Mine Tezal, DDS, PhD, of the State University of New York -- Buffalo, involved patients newly diagnosed with primary oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC) between 1999 and 2007 at Roswell Park Cancer Institute. Controls were new patients seen during the same time but not diagnosed with cancer.

A total of 620 subjects (399 cases and 221 controls) were included in the study. The researchers identified dental caries, periodontitis, and missing teeth from panoramic radiographs when patients were first admitted, before cancer treatment began.

Those patients diagnosed with OSCC had a significantly higher number of missing teeth (13.71 versus 8.50, p < 0.001) and alveolar bone loss (4.03 versus 2.44 mm, p < 0.001), but lower number of teeth with caries (1.58 vs. 2.04, p = 0.028) compared with those without OSCC, the study authors reported. After adjustment for age at diagnosis, gender, marital status, medical insurance, smoking status, and alcohol use, subjects with periodontitis were more likely and subjects with caries were less likely to have head and neck squamous cell cancer.

"Direct causal associations with bacteria and associated immune dysregulation need to be further assessed," the researchers concluded.

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