Technion: Smoking and saliva are a deadly mix
Smoking turns one's saliva into a substance that greatly increases the risk of mouth cancer, according research conducted at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology and Rambam Medical Center in Haifa.
Dr. Rafi Nagler and his team found that tobacco smoke breaks down molecules of saliva that are meant to protect the mouth and makes them "a cocktail of dangerous" materials. Nagler is not only a dentist, but he completed last week his medical studies at the Technion's Rappaport Medical Faculty; he also has a doctorate in biochemistry and a master's degree in business administration.
He explained that saliva naturally contains antioxidants that usually protect the mouth against cancer. But smoking not only prevents the saliva from doing so -- it actually becomes a risky substance. "Our research has found that saliva exposed to tobacco smoke assists in the destruction of cells in the mouth and helps destroy normal activity in the mouth. Most people will be surprised to learn that the combination of saliva and smoke is more harmful to the mouth than cigarette smoke alone," he said.
The research, published in a British cancer journal, studied the effects of tobacco smoke on cancer cells. Half were exposed to saliva exposed to tobacco smoke, while the rest were exposed only to the smoke. The first group suffered much more damage, which was more extensive the longer the exposure to tobacco smoke.
Smoking and drinking alcohol are the main causes of mouth and throat cancer, which includes tumors of the oral cavity, throat, tongue, gums and larynx (voice box). About 400,000 new cases of these cancers are diagnosed around the world each year, most of them in developed countries.