Mouthwash With Alcohol and Oral Carcinogenesis: Systematic Review and Meta-analysis

J Evid Based Dent Pract. 2020 Jun;20(2):101407. doi: 10.1016/j.jebdp.2020.101407. Epub 2020 Feb 5.


Background: It has been shown that the risk of developing oral cancer is closely related to the intensity and duration of exposure to alcohol and tobacco. Even so, the use of mouthwashes with alcohol in their compositions and the increased risk of oral cancer has been a source of controversy for decades.

Objective: This study proposes a systematic review and a meta-analysis of the literature, to assess the possible relationship between the use of mouthwashes with alcohol and the development of oral and pharyngeal cancers.

Materials and methods: A systematic search was done using the Medline and PubMed databases. Exclusion criteria were as follows: articles published in languages other than English or Spanish, systematic reviews, and expert opinions. No limitations were used for publication date.

Results: A total of 14 articles were obtained, 11 case-control studies and 3 clinical trials. Three case-control studies found no statistically significant evidence between the relationship of mouthwash use and oral cancer and the remaining 8 case-control studies found statistically significant evidence. The 3 clinical trials observed a relationship between the use of mouthwashes with alcohol and the possibility of developing cancer due to the genotoxicity and mutagenic capacity of alcohol in chronic contact with oral tissues and mucous membranes. The meta-analysis resulted in an OR = 1.480 and a P-value = .161 (95% CI: 0.855; P-value = 2.561) for the analysis of studies of cancer risk and consumption of mouthwashes with alcohol and OR = 1.057 0.364 (95% CI: 0.951; P-value = 1.174) for studies that related the risk of cancer and mouthwash use without taking into account the presence of alcohol.

Conclusions: There is no sufficient evidence to accept the proposition that the use of mouthwashes containing alcohol can influence the development of oral cancer.

Keywords: Alcohol; Mouthrinse; Mouthwash; Oral cancer; Pharyngeal cancer.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Carcinogenesis
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Humans
  • Mouth Neoplasms*
  • Mouthwashes*


  • Mouthwashes