Mouthwash and cancer?

The Daily Mirror, the Daily Express the Daily Mail, and The Times reported on 4th April 2014 that “using mouthwash 3 times a day can give you cancer” following a study published in Oral Oncology.

Dr Indrayani Ghangrekar, Health Information Officer at Cancer Research UK says, “This study was not large enough to confirm if mouthwash can increase the risk of mouth and throat cancers and previous results from a meta-analysis showed no link between mouthwash and cancer. Some studies have suggested a higher risk of mouth and throat cancers in people with poor oral health or dental care – although the authors of this paper don’t suggest a mechanism or discuss whether there might be other explanations for these observations.”

Professor Damien Walmsley, Scientific Adviser to the British Dental Association, says that the association between heavy mouthwash use and cancer seen in the study could be due to other confounding factors: “This study does not provide conclusive evidence that mouthwashes containing alcohol are harmful to health. It does, however, reaffirm that smoking, heavy drinking and a poor diet over time are strong risk factors for developing cancers of the oral cavity and oesophagus. These behaviours cannot be disassociated from people who neglect their oral hygiene and rarely, if ever, visit the dentist. The study also says that people who are at risk of developing cancer may be using alcohol-based mouthwashes inappropriately to disguise smoking or drinking alcohol.”

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