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J Oral Microbiol. 2010 Aug 10;2. doi: 10.3402/jom.v2i0.5195.

Oral microbiota and cancer.

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Institute of Dentistry, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland.


Inflammation caused by infections may be the most important preventable cause of cancer in general. However, in the oral cavity the role of microbiota in carcinogenesis is not known. Microbial populations on mouth mucosa differ between healthy and malignant sites and certain oral bacterial species have been linked with malignancies but the evidence is still weak in this respect. Nevertheless, oral microorganisms inevitably up-regulate cytokines and other inflammatory mediators that affect the complex metabolic pathways and may thus be involved in carcinogenesis. Poor oral health associates statistically with prevalence of many types of cancer, such as pancreatic and gastrointestinal cancer. Furthermore, several oral micro-organisms are capable of converting alcohol to carcinogenic acetaldehyde which also may partly explain the known association between heavy drinking, smoking, poor oral health and the prevalence of oral and upper gastrointestinal cancer. A different problem is the cancer treatment-caused alterations in oral microbiota which may lead to the emergence of potential pathogens and subsequent other systemic health problems to the patients. Hence clinical guidelines and recommendations have been presented to control oral microbiota in patients with malignant disease, but also in this area the scientific evidence is weak. More controlled studies are needed for further conclusion.


cancer; carcinogenesis; oral bacteria; oral microbiota

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