Excessive use of mouthwash could increase risk of oral cancer

BREMEN, Germany: Smoking and excessive drinking have been associated with the development of oral cancer by numerous studies. Now, a pan-European collaborative research project has revealed that poor oral health and failure to have regular dental check-ups could increase the risk of the disease too. The researchers also found that using mouthwash more than three times a day may contribute to the development of this particular type of cancer.

In order to assess the association of oral health, dental health and mouthwash with cancer of the mouth, larynx, pharynx and oesophagus, researchers at 13 centres across nine European countries interviewed 1,963 oral cancer patients and 1,993 controls about their oral care behavior, as well as their smoking, drinking and eating habits.

Overall, oral health and dental care were identified as independent risk factors of oral cancer. The researchers found that the incidence of oral cancer was higher in participants with dentures and persistent gum bleeding and patients who hardly ever or never brushed their teeth or visited the dentist.

Although the researchers also found that frequent use of mouthwash was associated with an elevated risk of developing mouth or throat cancer, this relationship still needs to be clarified, the researchers said. They suggested that mouthwash is used excessively by smokers and heavy drinkers in particular in an attempt to mask their breath.

The study, titled Oral health, dental care and mouthwash associated with upper aerodigestive tract cancer risk in Europe: The ARCAGE study, was published online on 27 March in the Oral Oncology journal ahead of print. Under the supervision of the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer, the study was conducted at the Leibniz Institute for Prevention Research and Epidemiology in Bremen in collaboration with medical institutions in Estonia, Switzerland, Greece, Italy, Spain, Croatia, Ireland, France, the Czech Republic, the UK and the US.