June 6, 2019

Mouth microbes and colorectal cancer

Microbial species in the mouth could be playing a role in colorectal cancer development, according to new research from epidemiologists at VUMC.


Chronic inflammation and periodontal disease caused by certain microbial species in the mouth — part of the oral microbiome — have been suggested to play a role in colorectal cancer development.

Yaohua Yang, PhD, Jirong Long, PhD, and colleagues investigated the association of the oral microbiome with colorectal cancer risk among participants in the Southern Community Cohort Study. They analyzed microbial species in mouth rinse samples collected at enrollment (before colorectal cancer diagnosis) and compared the oral microbiome of 231 people who were later diagnosed with colorectal cancer and 462 matched controls.

The researchers reported in the International Journal of Cancer that two oral pathogens, Treponema denticola and Prevotella intermedia, were associated with increased risk of colorectal cancer. In addition, 11 common and 16 rare bacterial species were associated with risk of colorectal cancer.

The research suggests that the oral microbiome may play a role in colorectal cancer development and supports further studies to explore using the oral microbiome for early detection or prevention of colorectal cancer.

This research was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health (CA163072, CA207466, CA202979, CA092447, CA068485) and by the Department of Medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.