Oral Bacteria Linked to Cancer Risk, Hopkins Researchers Find

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In the fight against cancer, one of the most crucial steps is figuring out how to more quickly and accurately diagnose the disease. 

Recent research out of Johns Hopkins is an important step forward in this area, at least when it comes to head and throat cancer. The Hopkins researchers looked at study subjects’ microbiomes–that is, the perfectly normal bacterial colonies we all have living inside our mouths, whether we like to think about them or not–and found that people with head and neck cancer had a different microbial make-up.

This is actually not all that surprising; it turns out that researchers are increasingly finding that diseases from arthritis to irritable bowel syndrome are reflected in changes in the microbiome. The good news is that such findings may allow doctors to more quickly and accurately screen patients for cancer risk based on a simple mouth swab. That’s still a ways off in the future–but such research points us in that direction, says study author (and Hopkins otolaryngologist) Rafael Guerrero-Preston: “Our findings suggest that we may one day use the composition of the microbiome to test for disease.”

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