Your mouthwash might increase your risk of oral cancer

Last Call for Alcohol


That’s the first impression that comes to mind when I recall the ordeal of my friend Robert in the years after he was diagnosed with oral cancer. Bob didn’t beat his cancer, but he fought it doggedly through several operations, and many rounds of radiation and chemo – the works.


As so often happens, doctors were unable to pinpoint the source of Bob’s cancer. He was a healthy, physically active, middle-aged married man with a positive outlook on life and no history of smoking.

A new study reveals that a seemingly benign household product (which you might have in your home right now) could have tipped Bob’s cancer into motion.

Over the teeth, past the gums…

Researchers from two Australian dental schools reviewed a variety of research projects that investigated the effects of alcohol on oral health. One of those sources included more than 3,200 subjects in a trial that indicated daily mouthwash use might be a significant risk factor for head and neck cancer.

The Australian study concluded: “There is now sufficient evidence to accept the proposition that alcohol-containing mouthwashes contribute to the increased risk of development of oral cancer.”

The study notes that several popular mouthwash brands actually have higher alcohol content than beer or wine. The other obvious difference is that beverages are swallowed, but mouthwash is swished throughout the mouth. Lead researcher, Prof. Michael McCullough told The Daily Telegraph that when alcohol permeates the oral cavity, a toxic metabolite called acetaldehyde can accumulate.

Acetaldehyde is the component of alcohol that makes you feel ill after having too much to drink. And far worse, the Environmental Protection Agency has concluded that acetaldehyde is a “probable human carcinogen.”

Prof. McCullough’s review shows that cigarette smokers who use an alcohol mouthwash daily may have as much as nine times greater risk of oral cancer compared to those who don’t use mouthwash. Alcohol drinkers who use alcohol mouthwash daily may also be at considerably greater risk.

Your inexpensive alternative

Prof. McCullough recommends that alcohol mouthwash should not be used on a regular basis. And better yet: Find a mouthwash that contains no alcohol.

I happen to have just the thing.

As I’ve mentioned in previous e-Alerts, alternative medicine pioneer William Campbell Douglass II, M.D., recommends using a hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) solution as a mouthwash twice daily. This is an excellent way to neutralize bacteria that develop along the gum line and contribute to periodontitis (gum disease).

If allowed to build up, bacteria can accumulate in the throat. If the immune system is not functioning at optimum levels, these bacteria may trigger respiratory problems such as pneumonia.

A mouthwash of H2O2 solution is easy to make. Mix one ounce of 35 percent food-grade hydrogen peroxide with 11 ounces of water. For flavoring, a few drops of liquid chlorophyll can be added.

But a word of caution: Do not allow undiluted hydrogen peroxide to come into contact with your skin while mixing the solution.

“The Role of Alcohol in Oral Carcinogenesis with Particular Reference to Alcohol- Containing Mouthwashes” Australian Dental Journal, Vol. 53, No. 4, December 2008,
“Mouthwash Linked to Cancer” Clair Weaver, The Daily Telegraph, 1/11/09,