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Ingredient in Mouthwash May Increase Your Risk of Oral Cancer

According to Australian researchers from the University of Melbourne and University of Queensland, using alcohol based mouthwashes may increase you risk of oral cancer.

Their review is published in November/December 2008 issue of the Australian Dental Association's Dental Journal Australia.

For the review, researchers analyzed epidemiological data (factors that affect the health of populations), in vitro (or test tube) studies and information about the relationship between alcohol and oral cancer development.

They found that daily use of mouthwash containing alcohol increased the risk of mouth, pharynx and larynx cancers by 400% to 500%. Those who used alcohol based mouthwash and smoke had a 900% increase in risk.

Researchers believe that the reason for these startling results is that the alcohol in mouthwash allows cancer causing substances to permeate the lining of the mouth.

According to lead researcher, Professor Michael McCulloch, chairman of the Australian Dental Association's therapeutics committee, a toxic breakdown of alcohol in mouthwash occurs once inside the mouth. This process creates a substance called acetaldehyde, which is a known carcinogen.

A buildup of acetaldehyde in the mouth could be one of the reasons why alcohol based mouthwashes increase cancer risk. The problem is made worse because mouthwash is swished around in the mouth. That gives acetaldehyde time to saturate mucus membranes.

Some mouthwash brands contain as much as 25% alcohol. In fact, several of the most popular brands contain higher concentrations of alcohol than drinks like beer or wine. But since beer and wine are immediately swallowed, they don't have time to break down into acetaldehyde.

Oral cancer is a serious and damaging disease that affects hundreds of thousands of people. What's worse, the five year survival rate is only about 50%.

There are several steps you can take to reduce your risk. Obviously, one of the most important is not to smoke. Aside from that, brushing your teeth and flossing everyday, seeing a dentist regularly and using a non alcohol based mouthwash are all good ideas.

Recent research indicates that certain types of probiotics may also help promote oral health, and nano-sized silver particles have shown promise in neutralizing bad bacteria in the mouth.
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