Is gum disease linked to esophageal cancer?

Is gum disease linked to esophageal cancer?

Last Reviewed : 12/18/2020
  Is gum disease linked to esophageal cancer?

What comes to your mind when you hear esophageal cancer? Without mincing words, cancer has become very popular in the world today. Most times, a family just writes off a loved one when they are diagnosed with the disease. But why is that? Well, the answer seems perplexing as statistics paint a different picture. The thing is: while different types of cancer exist, the overall survival rates differ.

So, esophageal cancer is a type of cancer. Another question now is: “Is gum disease linked to esophageal cancer?” Well, you will find out after perusing this piece.

Understanding Esophageal Cancer

Put simply, esophageal cancer is the cancer that happens along the esophagus. Indeed, esophageal cancers are one of the most common cancers in the world and are associated with a very high mortality rate. Most esophageal cancers have late presentations and have very low survival rate after diagnosis. Hence, the need for better screening techniques and early identification has become a necessity in dealing with this fatal disease.

Studies have indicated a significant role of oral micro-organisms in the causation of cancers of the food-pipe. Esophageal cancers mostly belong to two major categories: Esophageal Adeno Carcinoma (EAC) and Esophageal Squamous Cell Carcinoma (ASCC). Both of these types are associated with different oral pathogens that cause periodontitis. It is not clear whether the elevated risk for esophageal cancer is caused due to the pathogens or due to the gum disease.

Common Causes

Tannerella forsythia, a periodontal pathogen, has been found to be associated with a higher risk of developing Esophageal Adeno Cancer. Another oral pathogen known as Porphyromonas gingivalis, which causes periodontitis, is found in abundance in people suffering from Esophageal Squamous Cell Cancer. Well, this gum disease causing pathogen is found in the cells around the cancerous growth in the esophagus while it remains absent in the normal tissues of esophagus. Antibodies against these bacteria are associated with worse prognosis. It is often associated with chronic inflammatory process, disturbed micro biological environment and altered immune response in the host. Also, this information, if confirmed can indicate that eradication of these specific bacteria can significantly reduce the chances of esophageal cancer. It can possibly be used as a biological marker for the presence of esophageal cancer.

Recent studies have suggested the role of micro-organisms of upper gastro intestinal tract in the causation of esophageal cancer. Microbes in the gut include commensals and pathogens. Some of them act through receptors and cause cancers while others protect by forming barriers and producing vitamins. Though current evidence is restricted to cross sectional studies, oral bacteria may play a major role in the etiology of esophageal cancer. Studies, however, found no correlation between the diversity of micro-organisms and cancer. Only a few species are associated with increased risk.

Certain bacteria like streptococcus pneumoniae and Nisseria have been implicated to have a protective effect on adeno cancer of the esophagus. Further studies evaluating specific bacteria will help in preventing the disease and understanding the risk factors.

Besides, gingivitis and oral diseases could provide a route for micro-organisms to enter blood during chewing, self-hygiene or dental procedures. These bacteria after entering the blood activate various receptor and signaling processes in the body. Chronic inflammation due to these pathogens is associated with an increased propensity to develop cancers. Another effect of gut bacteria is that they activate the carcinogenic substances present in smoke and food. All the effects add up to increase the risk of developing cancers.

Additionally, poor oral hygiene, tooth loss, periodontitis and other oral diseases are associated with increased risk of esophageal cancer. This also means that brushing and flossing regularly will lower your odds of developing esophageal cancer along with improving your oral health.

To draw a relationship between them, it’s important to note that gum diseases have been implicated as a possible factor for development of heart disease and stroke. It is imperative that you maintain oral hygiene to avoid serious health issues. Sure, better oral health will not only reduce your chances of getting a cancer but also improve outcomes of surgery or other treatment procedures done for esophageal cancer. Beyond doubts, better oral hygiene will reduce the incidence of pneumonia and other diseases that affect recovery from the procedures.

Final Words

At this juncture, we will return to the question: “Is gum disease linked to esophageal cancer?” Truly, we cannot reinvent the wheel as you already know the answer to the question. Yes, there is a connection between the two as inability to maintain good oral health can culminate in esophageal cancer. Therefore, it is pertinent that you maintain better oral hygiene to keep the chances of developing the disease slim.

According to studies, males tend to have this type of cancer more than the females. However, that study doesn’t in any way exonerate the females from developing the condition. Guess what: just like every other type of cancer, this cancer is capable of killing the patient. One study disclosed that esophageal cancer is the sixth killer cancer in the world. How shocking!!

You see, apart from personal hygiene, smokers and alcoholics are also prone to developing esophageal cancer. Indeed, if you are a habitual smoker or a lush, you should take note. The minute you start observing symptoms such as hoarseness, dysphagia, chest pain and weight loss, then you may have the early signs of esophageal cancer. While we cannot conclude that you have esophageal cancer from those symptoms, you just need to see a doctor to be sure.

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