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  • Sarah Bolduc, RDH

Can the bacteria in your mouth affect your risk of getting Head & Neck Cancers?

Recently, the Journal of the American Medical Association Oncology (JAMA Oncology) published the findings from a large study examining the influence of two species of bacteria found in the oral cavity on risk for developing head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC).

It was found that two genera of bacteria, Corynebacterium and Kingella had an association with decreased risks of head and neck squamous cell carcinomas especially for persons with a history of tobacco use. The study projects that the decreased risk of head and neck squamous cell carcinomas could be related to the bacteria's ability to metabolize carcinogens.

These findings may have potential implications for prevention of certain head and neck cancers in the future. For more information on this study, check out the JAMA Oncology summary of key points.

For the time being, as dental professionals we do our best to catch head and neck cancers in the early stages by conducting head and neck screening exams by palpating the neck and oral mucosa, visually inspecting the oral cavity and utilizing our VELscope to aid in screening for potential cancerous lesions at every routine visit.


Hayes RB, Ahn J, Fan X, Peters BA, Ma Y, Yang L, Agalliu I, Burk RD, Ganly I, Purdue MP, Freedman ND, Gapstur SM, Pei Z. Association of Oral Microbiome With Risk for Incident Head and Neck Squamous Cell Cancer. JAMA Oncol. Published online January 11, 2018. doi:10.1001/jamaoncol.2017.4777

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