Does green tea hold the power to ward off oral cancer?
This popular beverage has been associated with a number of health benefits, including the prevention of heart disease and high cholesterol. Studies have also shown that regular green tea consumption may help protect against breast, colon, lung, ovary and prostate cancer.
Now, oral cancer can be added to that list. Research has revealed that regularly drinking green tea could also be beneficial in the prevention of oral and oropharyngeal carcinoma.
Green Tea Consumption Helps Defeat Oral Cancer
The idea that drinking green tea could help prevent and even reverse the progress of mouth and throat cancer was first publicized back in 2002. A group of oral and maxillofacial pathology researchers from the Medical College of Georgia discovered that this beverage had anti-cancer powers.
A compound or polyphenol in this green tea called epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) was found to induce death in cancer cells — without affecting the noncancerous cells. At the time, researchers couldn’t determine exactly why EGCG only targets those cells. But they concluded that regularly drinking this type of tea could help prevent oral carcinoma.
New Research Regarding Green Tea and Oral Cancer Prevention
A recent Pennsylvania State University study has confirmed the earlier findings — the EGCG in green tea may kill cancerous cells.
This time around, researchers gained a greater understanding of the mechanism that causes the compound to selectively kill cancer cells. They found that EGCG triggers a reaction in the mitochondria in cancer cells, causing a cycle of damage that ultimately results in their deaths.
EGCG doesn’t cause this reaction in healthy cells. Instead, it boosts their defense mechanisms to help protect against mouth and throat cancer.
A protein called sirtuin 3 (SIRT3) may also play an important role in this process. Researchers believe it’s likely that EGCG affects the activity of SIRT3 differently in cancerous and non-cancerous cells.
Taking Oral Cancer Prevention Research Further
With limited clinical data, it’s too early to say how useful drinking this beverage may be in preventing oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancer. And it may never become a first-line treatment for patients who are already afflicted with the disease.
However, the emerging studies are promising, and researchers are eager to complete further testing and clinical trials. The hope is to one day use the EGCG compound to help create an effective anti-cancer treatment that doesn’t leave patients stricken with the side effects that are common with chemotherapy drugs.
In the meantime, patients can reduce their chances of developing oral carcinoma by avoiding certain risk factors, including smoking and drinking alcohol. Even more imperative in prevention is visiting an oral surgeon for regular checkups to help detect early warning signs. Discovering the disease early means treatment is more likely to be successful.
The experienced surgeons of Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery of Utah have extensive training in oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancer prevention and treatment. Contact one of our Salt Lake City area offices today to schedule your oral cancer screening.