Friday, June 17, 2016

Microbial Differences in the Mouths of Smokers Could Affect the Risk of Cancer

With all of the research, evidence, and warnings about the dangers of cigarette smoking from the American Surgeon General over the past four decades, it is quite surprising that nearly 40 million adults over the age of 18 still smoke.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cigarette smoking harms nearly every organ of the body, causes many diseases, and reduces the health of smokers in general.

We're all familiar with the increased risk of heart disease, stroke, and lung, bladder, colon, esophagus, and pancreas cancers in cigarette smokers, but according to an article in Medical News Today, new evidence suggests that cigarette smoking alters the mouth microbiota, causing the growth of Streptococcus, which could have an effect not only on oral health, but on the risk for cancers in smokers.

As suggested by the ISME Journal report, cigarette smoking significantly changes the mouth's microbiome, with potential implications for tooth decay and the ability to break down toxins. In a research study conducted by New York University Langone Medical Center and its Laura and Isaac Perlmutter Cancer Center, smokers were found to have higher levels of Streptococcus species in their mouths - 10 percent more - than non-smokers. Over 1,200 American adults who are registered in an ongoing study of cancer risk by the National Institutes of Health and the American Cancer Society participated in the study.

Streptococcus is round bacterium commonly found in the human oral cavity, and is the main cause of dental decay. Recent research indicates that over 75% of oral cancers are thought to be linked to smoking, but it has not yet been proven whether microbial differences in the mouth affect the risk for cancer.

The good news is, according to the ISME Journal report, upon quitting smoking, the oral microbiome seems to return to its earlier state. For those participants in the study who had not smoked within the past 10 years, their microbial levels were the same as those of the non-smokers.

To help ensure good health, the obvious solution is to quit smoking. But for smokers who are having a difficult time kicking the habit, it is important to see a dentist to maintain good oral health. To help prevent or manage the growth of Streptococcus, use a fluoride mouth wash and talk to your dentist about the use of antimicrobial agents to help eliminate or reduce the occurrence of infections.

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