The role of bacteria in oral cancer

Indian J Med Paediatr Oncol. 2010 Oct;31(4):126-31. doi: 10.4103/0971-5851.76195.


Despite the widening interest in the possible association between bacteria and different stages of cancer development, our knowledge in its relation to oral cancers remains inadequate. The aim of this review article is to derive a better understanding on the role of various micro-organisms in the etiogenesis of oral cancers through all the available data on the pubmed. Different bacteria have been proposed to induce carcinogenesis either through induction of chronic inflammation or by interference, either directly or indirectly, with eukaryotic cell cycle and signaling pathways, or by metabolism of potentially carcinogenic substances like acetaldehyde causing mutagenesis. Studies have shown diversity of isolated bacterial taxa between the oral cancer tissue specimens and the control, with Exiguobacterium oxidotolerans, Prevotella melaninogenica, Staphylococcus aureus and Veillonella parvula being specific for tumorogenic tissues. Most isolates are saccharolytic and acid tolerant. Streptococcus anginosus, commonly linked with esophageal and pharyngeal cancers, is not of significance in oral cancers. Similarly, significant salivary specificity is noted for three bacteria, namely, Capnocytophaga gingivalis, P. melaninogenica, and Streptococcus mitis in oral cancer patients, making these species salivary markers for the early detection of oral cancers and thus improving the survival rate significantly. Also, such high degree of bacterial specificity in oral cancers has also provoked the designing of new treatment options for cancer prevention by way of vaccine delivery. However, for the success of these steps, a deeper exploration into this subject with a greater understanding is warranted.

Keywords: Bacteria; carcinogenesis; oral squamous cell carcinoma.