Cancer is a normal consequence of living. As our cells reproduce, routine errors and mutations in our cells lead to the development of cancer. However, most instances of cancer are detected and destroyed by our body before they become a problem. Our bodies know how to detect cancer and take care of it. It’s normally only when mutations increase because of other conditions that cancer gets out of control.
But it turns out that bacteria found in gum disease might actually ally themselves with cancer to help cancer avoid detection and destruction, helping it take hold in our bodies.
Common in Colorectal Tumors
The bacteria in question are Fusobacterium nucleatum, a species that had been thought to be mostly harmless (except for its occasional role in gum disease). However, a recent study found that high levels of this bacteria were found in colorectal tumors. Eager to see whether there was anything more to this story, researchers cultured the bacteria with different type of human tumor cells as well as the natural killer cells our body relies on to detect and kill cancer.
They found that the bacteria actually told the killer cells not to kill the tumor cells.
Plan B for Bacteria, Not C for Cancer
What’s going on here? Does this bacteria want to promote cancer, possibly even at your expense? Sort of. Researchers suspect that the F. nucleatum bacteria are just trying to make a pleasant environment for itself.
You see F. nucleatum is an anaerobic bacteria, the kind that doesn’t like oxygen (and contributes to bad breath). Tumors can create an anaerobic environment, so some think that the bacteria have just latched on to this opportunity for finding a good environment for themselves. It’s all about the bacteria, not about the cancer.
Unfortunately, you are the one who gets caught in the crossfire.
Will Treating Gum Disease Reduce Cancer Risk?
Unlike heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and pregnancy complications, the link between gum disease and colorectal cancer is way too new to make any statements about causality. Some people think that the association is purely incidental, and we don’t yet know whether treating gum disease will reduce cancer risk.
But we do know that you can reduce your risk (and your medical expenses) for other conditions through gum disease treatment. If you would like to schedule a checkup and oral hygiene visit to protect yourself from gum disease, please call (619) 299-5925 for an appointment with a San Diego dentist at Strober Dental.