Individuals with cavities in their teeth had a reduced incidence of head and neck cancer, perhaps because of heightened immune activity, according to a single-center, case-control study at the State University of New York at Buffalo led by Mine Tezal, DDS, PhD.
The researchers found that among 399 patients with head and neck cancer, current or previous dental caries were significantly less common than in 221 individuals without a cancer diagnosis. According to lead author, Tezal, the present study suggests, for the first time, an independent association between dental caries and head and neck squamous cell carcinoma.
Tezal and colleagues examined records of patients older than 21 seen in the university's dental and maxillofacial prosthetics department from 1999 to 2007, identifying 399 who were newly diagnosed with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma. They also reviewed records of 221 other patients seen in the department during the same period. Patients with a history of cancer, dysplasia, or immunodeficiency were excluded from both groups. Controls included general dental patients as well those diagnosed with such conditions as oral warts, traumatic injuries, cysts, and abscesses.
They found that the associations between caries counts and cancer were restricted to tumours of the oral cavity and oropharynx; in cases involving laryngeal cancers, there was no difference in caries counts between cases and controls.
The study appeared in the online journal JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery.
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