Montreal researchers to study link between colorectal cancer and oral health


A research collaboration involving the Order of Dentists of Quebec and an interdisciplinary team of researchers from the University of Montreal, McGill University and the University of Montreal Hospital Centre (Centre hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal [CHUM]) will study whether periodontal disease and tooth loss affect the risk of developing colorectal cancer.

The study will examine potential causal associations between several oral health-related factors and colorectal cancer. In particular, the lead researchers, Drs. Igor Karp and Elham Emami from the University of Montreal, believe edentulism may present an increased risk because people without teeth experience difficulty eating fruits and vegetables. Therefore, they are more likely to avoid the types of foods that might prevent colorectal cancer while also being more likely to consume the types of foods that may increase the risk of the cancer, such as refined carbohydrates.

“We think this could compromise their health and put them at risk for cancer,” says Dr. Emami. “This is the first epidemiological study specifically designed to investigate the etiologic role of edentulism and periodontal disease in the occurrence of the cancer.”

According to Dr. Emami, Quebec in particular has high rates of edentulism: up to 40% of Quebecers age 65 and older are toothless, representing one of the highest rates of edentulism in Canada. In comparison, the rate of edentulism in that age group across Canada is around 20%.