The diagnosis and treatment of colorectal cancer may improve if medical providers have more information about a mouth bacteria that's been linked to the disease. Bacteria in the mouth is also blamed for tooth decay and gum disease, pointing to the heightened importance of regular dental care.
Two new studies indicate a type of gut bacteria found in the mouth may trigger colorectal cancer by causing an immune response that encourages, rather than hinders, the formation of cancer genes.
In the first study, the bacteria Fusobacteria was found in benign tumors that may become cancerous over time, and suggested that they contribute to the early stages of tumor growth.
"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," study author Wendy Garrett, M.D., of the Harvard School of Public Health and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, told Medical News Today.
The Harvard study was published in the journal Cell Host & Microbe along with similar research done at Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine, which concluded that Fusobacteria also uses a molecule that's able to invade human colorectal cancer cells. The molecule, called Fusobacterium adhesin A, influences genes to develop cancer cells and trigger inflammation in the cells that can lead to tumor formation.
The Case Western team found that healthy individuals have a lower level of FadA than people with benign and cancerous colorectal tumors.
Need for dental care
The research bolsters the importance of maintaining daily dental care through vigilant brushing and flossing to remove as much bacteria from the mouth as possible. Visiting dentists regularly for check-ups is also necessary to detect tooth decay and gum disease.
People who delay dental visits because of the cost of services and their inability to pay the high premiums for dental insurance can get some relief by signing on instead with a discount dental plan. Such plans offer a wide range of dentistry services at reduced prices.
One bright note in the Case Western study was the identification of a compound that may stop the effects of FadA on cancer cells, according to senior author Yiping Han, Ph.D., of the university's dental school.
"We showed that FadA is a marker that can be used for the early diagnosis of colorectal cancer," she said, "and identified potential therapeutic targets to treat or prevent this common and debilitating disease."
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