Daily Brushing Prevents More Than Just Cavities

Your dentist already recommends twice daily brushing to fight plaque and prevent cavities, but now, you may start hearing the same advice from your gastroenterologist. New findings suggest that regular brushing could help prevent colon cancer.

Fusobacterium is a type of bacteria that is commonly found in dental plaque, but researchers have discovered that this bacteria is hundreds of times more common in cancerous growths than in normal cells. These bacteria have a sugar-binding protein that enables them to attach to polyps or cancerous growths within the bowel. This can cause precancerous growths to turn cancerous and malignant tumors to grow even larger.

Scientists suspect that fusobacterium enter the bloodstream through bleeding gums and then travel to the bowel. To test this theory, researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health injected fusobacteria into the tail veins of two mouse models with precancerous or malignant colorectal tumors. In both types of mice, the bacteria accumulated in the colorectal tumors compared to adjacent tissue.

The researchers also found fusobacterium in most human colorectal cancer metastases that were tested in the study, though they did not find it in most samples collected from tumor-free liver biopsies.

Together, these results led researchers to conclude that fusobacterium reach colorectal tumors through the bloodstream, where they then use their Fap2 protein to attach to host cells and promote tumor growth.

While these findings could eventually lead to improved treatments for colorectal cancer, researchers say further research is necessary. Study co-author Gilad Bachrach of the Hebrew University-Hadassah School of Dental Medicine explains, “The strengths are that the study involved both human samples and mouse models. The weakness is that the available mouse models for colorectal adenocarcinoma do not completely reflect the slowly developing disease in humans” (Source: Daily Mail).