1001 Uses For Dental Floss #63- Mouth Bacteria Linked to Colon Cancer

image from United States Department of Health and Human Services,

Fusobacterium nucleatum, a bacterium found in the mouth, and specifically in dental plaque, has been shown to also be accelerate the growth of cancer cells in the colon and rectum (your lower gut), where they are also found.

In the mouth, dental plaque is found on the surfaces of the teeth if they aren’t kept properly clean by brushing and flossing. It is a sticky mass of various kinds of bacteria and their chemical products, some of which are damaging to the teeth or to the gums. This is why it’s important to keep your teeth clean by flossing and brushing every day. some of which allow the plaque to be sticky and keep the bacteria next to the teeth instead of washing away as saliva flows past them. 

Please be warned that some strange-sounding chemical names will be mentioned here, but this isn’t me trying to scare you off reading the real message of this story. Just keep going. It’s actually pretty simple to understand.

A recent scientific research paper ((http://embor.embopress.org/content/early/2019/03/01/embr.201847638) has shown that these specific bacteria, produce a substance (FadA adhesin), involved in sticking bacteria together in dental plaque in the mouth, also accelerates the growth of colorectal cancer cells. The colorectal cancer cells themselves produce their own substance, (Annexin A1) which isn’t made by normal (non-cancerous) cells. That material allows the cancer cells to communicate with other cancer cells and make them divide and grow faster and to be more aggressive.

What the FadA adhesin does is help the cancer cells’ Annexin A1 to work better, but not only that, it also helps the attachment of more bacteria and in this way produce more of their substance, which stimulates the cancer cells to make more of their own product, on and on, and so on, so that the end result is that the cancer grows better and faster. This action is known as a positive feedback loop. The next step would be to find medications which may prevent this interaction, interfering with the way the cancer grows. 

It’s important to understand that cancer is a very complex disease or, really, group of diseases, and there are many steps along the way before it will, and hopefully in the not too distant future, be controlled or maybe even cured, so this is only one small step along that long, twisting path. Cancer research is making great strides forward, and will continue to do that because of the dedicated minds of the scientists involved in that research.

It’s also important to know that oral hygiene, brushing and flossing, can’t be expected to affect this cancer disease process, but do it for all the other good reasons. This type of bacteria, as I said, is common in the mouth and the mouth can’t be made sterile. That would cause other problems, because some bacteria are actually useful to our health–they’re our friends.

As I continue to say, though, remember to brush and also to floss. Make it a habit that you do very day. You’ll be healthier, and therefore happier, if you do.


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