Mouthwash ‘can cause oral cancer’

News — By on May 11, 2009 at 1:05 pm

Some mouthwashes can contribute to oral cancer and should only be available on prescription, researchers have claimed.

They claimed there was now “sufficient evidence” that mouthwashes containing alcohol contribute to an increased risk of the disease that they should be taken off supermarket shelves and labelled with health warnings.
In a review of the latest studies, the scientists found evidence that the ethanol in mouthwash was allowing cancer-causing substances to permeate the lining of the mouth more easily and therefore cause harm.

Professor Michael McCulloch, chairman of the Australian Dental Association’s therapeutics committee and associate professor of oral medicine at Melbourne University, said the alcohol in mouthwashes “increases the permeability of the mucosa” to carcinogens like nicotine.

He added that a toxic breakdown product of alcohol called acetaldehyde that may accumulate in the oral cavity when swished around the mouth is also a carcinogen.
Prof McCullough said: “We see people with oral cancer who have no other risk factors than the use of alcohol-containing mouthwash, so what we’ve done in this study is review all the evidence that’s out there.

“We believe there should be warnings. If it was a facial cream that had the effect of reducing acne but had a four-to-five-fold increased risk of skin cancer, no one would be recommending it.”

Some mouthwash can contain as much as 26 per cent alcohol.
The findings, published in the Dental Journal of Australia, said the most popular mouthwashes contained higher concentrations of alcohol than drinks such as wine or beer.

Prof McCullough said: “If you have a glass of wine, you tend to swallow it. With mouthwash you have a higher level of alcohol and spend longer swishing it around your mouth. The alcohol present in your mouth is turned into acetaldehyde.”

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