Get Screened Blog

Study: Mouth Bacteria May Make Colon Cancer Worse


In recent years, researchers continue to discover more and more about the link between bacteria in the body and overall health. For example, taking good care of mental health helps keep the gut health and vice versa. Healthy gut bacteria also may impact weight, cholesterol levels and other things related to a healthy heart.

But what if bacteria in the body also impacts colon cancer? Recent research suggests this may be true. A study from Harvard shows that a common mouth bacteria called "fusobacterium" may actually cause colon polyps to turn cancerous and also speed up colon cancer growth. In cancerous tumors, the bacteria was one hundred times more common than in normal cells. In fact, the researchers found the bacteria stuck to malignant and benign tumors almost like a magnet and ignored healthy tissue around the tumors.

The scientists wondered: if the bacteria comes from the human mouth, how does the bacteria get from the mouth to the gut? They think the bacteria might travel through the bloodstream from the mouth to the gut. Scientists speculate that regularly brushing your teeth reduces risk for colon cancer because it removes the harmful bacteria. 

Yet there is a caveat. “Based on our findings, it's too early to say whether we can prevent mouth bacteria from travelling through blood to the colon and promoting tumour formation or if some people are more at risk than others," said Gilad Bachrach, the lead author of the study. 

The research might bear other fruits for colon cancer research: if scientists can mimic how the bacteria finds and sticks to tumors, they can target tumors for treatment.

For now, though, keep brushing your teeth and get screened! Regularly screening catches colon cancer in its earliest stages leads to the best outcomes, no matter how often you brush your teeth.

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