Better oral health may up survival from head and neck cancer: Study

New York, Sep 20 (IANS) Better oral health is associated with increased survival from head and neck cancer, a new study has found.

Better oral health as evidenced by the number of natural teeth and dental visits prior to the time of diagnosis, was associated with increased survival.

The study, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, showed that people who had more frequent dental visits were more likely to have their cancer diagnosed at an earlier, and less deadly, stage of the disease than those who had few or no dental visits.

“Our hope is that these findings become a standard part of guidelines implemented for the prevention and management of head and neck squamous cell carcinomas in the near future,” said corresponding author Antonio L. Amelio, associate professor at the UNC Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery at the University of North Carolina, US.

For the study, approximately 2,500 patients from eight countries were asked to self-report aspects of their oral health and hygiene, including gum bleeding, tooth brushing frequency and mouthwash use, as well as the number

of natural teeth and frequency of dental visits they had during a 10-year period prior to their cancer diagnosis.

Researchers found that those who had frequent dental visits (more than five visits in a reported decade) had higher overall survival at 5 and 10 years (74 per cent and 60 per cent, respectively) compared to those with no dental visits (54 per cent at five years and 32 per cent at 10 years).

Moreover, people with no natural remaining teeth were associated with a 15 per cent lower survival compared to those with more than 20 natural teeth.

While survival differences of less than 5 per cent were found for patient-reported gum bleeding, tooth brushing and mouthwash use.

“This is an important study that highlights the interplay between oral health and head and neck squamous cell carcinoma and overall survival. While we seek biomarkers to predict which patient will do well, this study points out features of a history and examination that are associated with survival. Additionally, this may lead us down the road of prevention of these cancers,” said Carole Fakhry, Professor of Otolaryngology at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

–IANS

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