Cause of mouth cancer linked to gum disease

Well-known risk factors for oral cancer include smoking, poor diet and infection with the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). Researchers from the University of Buffalo in the USA found that those people with HPV-positive oral cancer also had high rates of gum disease.

Publishing in the Archives of Otolaryngology, the researchers wrote that periodontal disease “…is easy to detect and may represent a clinical high risk [for HPV-positive oral cancer].” The study looked at 124 patients with mouth cancer and found that the cancer in 50 of those patients was caused by HPV infection. It is thought that severe gum disease can increase the risk of developing oral HPV infection which subsequently raises the risk of developing oral cancer.

In a related study, scientists at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden found that high levels of dental plaque led to both gum disease and cancer, and was associated with a premature death of up to 13 years.

Over 6200 people are diagnosed with mouth cancer each year in the UK and it is thought that most cases of the cancer in younger people are due to infection with HPV. If oral cancer is diagnosed at an advanced stage, the condition has a poor prognosis but the risks can be lowered through quitting smoking and practising good oral health.

If you are concerned about the symptoms of mouth cancer, which include ulcers, sore throat and tooth ache, see ‘Diagnosis and Treatment of Oral Cancer’ by cancer expert, Mr Nicholas Kalavrezos.

Abnormal, uncontrolled cell division resulting in a malignant tumour that may invade surrounding tissues or spread to distant parts of the body. Full medical glossary
The process of determining which condition a patient may have. Full medical glossary
An abbreviation for human papilloma virus, a sexually transmitted virus that can cause genital warts and may also have a role in the development of various cancers. Full medical glossary
Invasion by organisms that may be harmful, for example bacteria or parasites. Full medical glossary
Gum disease. Full medical glossary
Any flat, raised patch; for example, a raised patch on the skin, fatty deposit in the inner wall of an artery, or layer over the surface of a tooth. Full medical glossary
An assessment of the likely progress of a condition. Full medical glossary
per vaginam Full medical glossary
septic arthritis Full medical glossary
Any abnormal break in the epithelium, the outer layer of cells covering the open surfaces of the body. Full medical glossary