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Mouth bacteria linked to colon cancer: What we all need to know

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Mouth bacteria and colon cancer linked.

New studies show what lives in our mouth in the form of bacteria can increase our risk of colon cancer. The finding also means a new way to measure your risk of developing cancer of the colon.

Scientists say certain mouth bacteria can trigger cancer genes in findings that were previously unknown. The good news is understanding more about who is at risk means earlier diagnosis and less risk of complications, intensive treatments for colon cancer and lower rates of death.

According to one new study finding mouth bacteria known as Fusobacteria that has also been found in the intestines of patients with pre-cancerous colon tumors was found to speed up tumor growth in mice bred to develop colorectal cancer.

Wendy Garrett, one of the study's senior authors of the Harvard School of Public Health and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, U..S. said in a press release, "Fusobacteria may provide not only a new way to group or describe colon cancers but also, more importantly, a new perspective on how to target pathways to halt tumor growth and spread."

A second and related study found Fusobacteria have a way of invading colon cancer cells using a sticky molecule that allows them to adhere to tumors and then enter. The molecule, known as Fusobacterium adhesin A (FadA) causes inflammation and spurs growth of tumor once it gets into human colorectal cancer cells.

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The scientists found theFadA gene molecule is 10 to 100 times higher in pre-cancerous polyps and in colon polyps that were cancerous.

The good news is researchers have also found a compound to stop the process and a patent for the discovery has already been filed. The research is published in the journal Cell Host & Microbe.

Senior study author Yiping Han, of Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine in the US, said FadA can be used as a biomarker to diagnose colorectal cancer early and then give the targeted new treatment.

Most of us know the mouth is laden with bacteria, which is why it's always important to have regular dental checkups. Some of the bacterial colonies in our mouth protect us by priming our immune response and aiding digestion. But other types of germs living in the mouth can make us sick. Keeping our teeth and gums healthy could help prevent colon cancer, found in the new study, help prevent heart attack, diabetes, memory loss and stroke and more.

The discovery adds to the list of serious health problems that can result from periodontal disease and highlights the importance of regular dental visits.

The findings mean new ways to diagnose and treat colon cancer. The compound developed by the team of researchers can stop mouth bacteria from attaching to receptor cells in the colon to prevent the disease for those at risk.