The mouth is in direct contact with alcohol and is therefore particularly vulnerable to its toxic effects. In addition to strong alcoholic beverages and tobacco, recent observations suggest that the alcohol contained in certain mouthwashes may also increase the risk of oral cancer.
Alcohol is a highly toxic substance that must be quickly metabolized by the body to minimize its adverse health effects. Following its absorption through the stomach and small intestine, alcohol is oxidized to acetaldehyde by the action of alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH), this acetaldehyde being subsequently converted to acetate.
Overall, this metabolism therefore makes it possible to transform a very toxic substance (alcohol) into a harmless product (acetate), but this detoxification does not completely eliminate the harmful effects of alcohol: the acetaldehyde formed during this reaction is a very reactive molecule, which can cause enormous damage to the genetic material of cells and promote the development of cancer.
Alcohol increases the risk of ENT cancer 40 times
The upper digestive system is particularly vulnerable to the effects of acetaldehyde: the saliva of people who consume large quantities of alcohol contains a level of acetaldehyde 10 to 20 times higher than in the blood, a consequence of the transformation of the alcohol to acetaldehyde by bacteria in the mouth.
This amount of toxic acetaldehyde can even be increased by 700% in people who smoke while drinking, and this phenomenon contributes to the strong synergy that exists between alcohol consumption and smoking for oral and esophageal cancers.
For example, heavy drinkers (six or more glasses of alcohol per day) who smoke more than one pack of cigarettes daily have up to 40 times greater risk of oral cavity cancer than those who drink moderately and do not smoke. not).
This effect is mainly seen in spirit drinkers, while people who prefer red wine appear to be at lower risk: for example, while drinking alcohols other than wine increases the risk of mouth cancer by 38% , this increased risk is only 7% among moderate drinkers of red wine.
Oral hygiene fights the risk of cancer
In the absence of regular tooth brushing and flossing, bacteria that live in our mouths attack tooth enamel to form calcified deposits (tartar) as well as enamel perforations (cavities). ).
These bacterial attacks are potentially harmful to health, because they cause inflammation of the tissues of the mouth, thereby creating conditions conducive to the development of cancer. Currently available data indicate that poor oral health may actually promote the development of oral cancer.
A recent analysis has shown, for example, that people with poor oral health or who do not seek professional dental care are twice as likely to suffer from cancer of the upper digestive tract (mouth, larynx , oropharynx, hypopharynx and esophagus).
Mouthwashes increase the risk of cancer
This risk seems to be even higher in people who regularly use a mouthwash that contains alcohol, possibly because the oral lesions are in close contact with the acetaldehyde formed during the transformation of the alcohol contained in these mouthwashes. mouthwashes by the bacterial flora of the mouth. People who regularly use these products should therefore favor those that do not contain alcohol.
Cancers of the upper digestive tract are perhaps the best example of diseases whose development is largely a direct consequence of lifestyle. Quitting smoking is of course an essential prerequisite for the prevention of these cancers, but it is also important to reduce the consumption of strong alcohols and to adopt basic dental hygiene measures. The mouth is the first digestive organ in contact with the outside world and its health is often a direct reflection of our good or bad lifestyle habits.
Allen NE et al. Moderate alcohol intake and cancer incidence in women. J. Natl Cancer Inst; 101: 296-305.
Ahrens W et al. Oral health, dental care and mouthwash associated with upper aerodigestive tract cancer risk in Europe: The ARCAGE study. Oral Oncol; 50:616-25.