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Association between periodontal disease, tongue cancer suggested

The greater the bone loss from periodontal disease, the greater the risk of tongue cancer, new research suggests.

Scientists at the State University of New York at Buffalo and Roswell Park Cancer Institute calculated that the risk of tongue cancer due to chronic periodontal disease increased fivefold with every millimeter of alveolar bone loss—the bone in the jaw that holds teeth in place—regardless of smoking status.

The scientists compared bone loss in 51 men with tongue cancer to 54 men without, all of whom were treated at the cancer institute between 1999 and 2005. Measurements of alveolar bone loss from panoramic radiographs were taken in all patients by the same periodontist, who did not know the cancer status of study patients.

After eliminating the potential effects of age, smoking status and the number of existing teeth, persons with chronic periodontal disease were 5.2 times more likely to have tongue cancer with every millimeter of bone loss than those without periodontal disease. The results showed that other conditions of the teeth—decay, fillings, crowns and root canals—had no significant effect on the incidence of tongue cancer.

r. Mine Tezal and colleagues hypothesize that periodontal viruses and bacteria could be toxic to surrounding cells and produce changes that lead directly to oral cancer, or could indirectly contribute to cancer through inflammation.

"We have presented preliminary data suggesting an independent association between history of periodontitis and the risk of tongue cancer," the study's authors wrote in the May issue of The Archives of Otolaryngology: Head and Neck Surgery. "This association needs to be confirmed by larger studies that include other oral cancer sites, women and subjects of other races with a more comprehensive assessment of confounding factors."

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