Green tea halts growth of oral cancer cells

Green tea halts growth of oral cancer cells


New findings confirm that green tea does indeed halt the growth of new oral cancer cells, and breaks down and kills existing oral cancer cells, according to a new study in General Dentistry, the clinical, peer-reviewed journal of the Academy of General Dentistry.

The mouth’s oxygen-rich environment connects to many blood vessels that provide a perfect habitat to house oral cancer cells, and in turn allows the cancerous cells to quickly multiply, explains Eric Z. Shapira, MS, DDS, MAGD, spokesperson for the Academy, an organization of general dentists dedicated to continuing dental education.

Ingesting or swishing with green tea introduces the tea polyphenols to the oral cancer cells which may be present in the mouth. The polyphenols are antioxidants, which work to remove the free radicals (oxidants) that cause mutation of genes, which may lead to cancerous growth. As antioxidants, the green tea polyphenols prevent gene mutations from the actions of the oxidants. In addition, green tea polyphenols are able to cause cell death in cancerous cells without harming the normal cells. They can also inhibit the growth and spread of cancerous cells.

The in vitro study revealed that the green tea polyphenols induce apoptosis, or destruction of cells, in many types of tumor cells, including oral cancer cells. While green tea polyphenols induce programmed cell death in tumor cells, they also induce a mechanism in normal cells for their survival.

For patients, this means that in order to reap green tea’s anticancer benefits, the mouth’s mucous lining must be exposed to four to six cups of green tea a day, explains Stephen Hsu, Ph.D., the lead researcher of the study conducted at the Medical College of Georgia, School of Dentistry. But the tea does not need to be ingested, and a person can choose to rinse and swish the mouth with green tea.

Additional studies may research new ways to add green tea’s chemopreventative powers to vehicles that deliver carcinogens, such as adding green tea leaves to smokeless tobacco to determine how the polyphenols would countereffect tobacco’s negative effects on the oral cavity.

Annually, more than 30,000 patients will be diagnosed with oral cancer with an estimated 7,800 deaths.

Green tea drinking & lower incidence

of oral cancer—a coincidence?

The tea drinking custom is held dear by many Chinese and has been ingrained in China’s history for more than 1,000 years. It is viewed as a natural form of enjoyment and incorporated into everyday life. The tea drinking custom in China lasts from 20 minutes to one hour, allowing the tea to stay in the oral cavity a long time, which allows the maximum impact for chemoprevention. Dr. Hsu believes there is a connection between green tea drinking habits and lower incidence of oral cancers.

Tea facts

l Each year, more than 2.5 million tons of tea is produced, but only 20 percent is green tea.

l Tea is more than 5,000 years old.

l It has been the beverage of choice in China since the 10th century B.C.

l After water, tea is the most consumed beverage worldwide.

l Half the world population drinks tea.

l Green tea leaves are not fermented and contain the highest level of polyphenols.

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