April brings opportunity to commemorate several oral health causes
As the pages of the calendar turn to April for another year, the month brings with it a chance to commemorate several important oral health causes. Besides articles in this issue on oral cancer and national public health, FOCUS Editorial Director Maria Perno Goldie, RDH, MS, points to awareness efforts for autism and dental hygienists in Canada that occur in April.
As we commemorate Oral Cancer Awareness Month, take this opportunity to sharpen your skills regarding this deadly disease, its prevention and early detection. Oropharyngeal cancers, those in the back of the mouth and oropharynx, have been on the rise. This has been attributed to increasing rates of infection by the human papilloma virus (HPV). This increased cancer rate is also thought to be due to changes in sexual practices in past decades.(1)
The increase is seen more often among whites, with a decreasing tendency among blacks. The authors of one study suggested that the prevalence in this age group suggests either non-sexual modes of HPV transfer at a younger age, or an abbreviated latency period between infection and development of oropharyngeal cancer. Those with HPV-related oral cancer have a favorable prognosis and are expected to live longer than those with non-HPV related cancers, while coping with treatment related side effects negatively impacting their quality of life.(1)
Oropharyngeal cancer patients treated with combined chemotherapy and radiation therapy reported a decrease in their voice and speech quality for up to one year after completing treatment.(2) There was a dose-response noted, with less radiation to the larynx causing fewer post-treatment complications. According to the authors, it is clear across numerous disciplines of medicine that patient reported outcomes frequently reveal more refined aspects in which patient quality of life is affected by medical treatments than is given credence by their physicians.(2)
On the subject of Alzheimer’s disease, in an original study, researchers have developed a blood test that can forecast if a healthy person will develop this type of dementia.(2)
The test is reported to be very accurate, but is not yet available to the general public. The researchers found that 28 seniors had low levels of 10 particular lipids, compared with healthy seniors. They also examined the blood of 54 other patients who had Alzheimer's or mild cognitive impairment, and found they also had low levels of the identified lipids. There are currently no cures or disease-modifying therapies for this disease, perhaps because we cannot identify the disease before it has progressed to memory loss and functional decline. Biomarkers of preclinical disease are extremely important in order to develop and implement disease-modifying or even preventative therapies before disease progression.(3)
April 2nd was World Autism Awareness Day, but will be celebrated throughout April. The theme is Light It Up Blue. Autism awareness is more important than ever, as autism prevalence has increased 78% in five years and continues to increase. This growth can only be partly explained by improved diagnosis and awareness. Find out how you can get involved.(4)
Our Canadian colleagues will celebrate: Embrace Your Oral Health April 6‒12: National Dental Hygienists Week. The week’s theme is “Oral Health for Total Health,” and it reminds us that taking care of our mouth, teeth, and gums positively impacts our overall health and well-being. It stresses that dental hygienists are valuable partners in prevention.(5)
And last, but not least, energy drinks are in the news again. Nearly one-third of U.S. adolescents consume high-caffeine energy drinks or "shots," and these teens report higher rates of alcohol, cigarette, or drug use.(6) This study examines energy drink/shot and regular and diet soft drink use among United States secondary school students in 2010-2011, and associations between such use and substance use.
While the study does not establish causation, beverage consumption was strongly and positively associated with past 30-day alcohol, cigarette, and illicit drug use.(6) Approximately 30% of students reported consuming energy drinks or shots; more than 40% reported daily regular soft drink use, and about 20% reported daily diet soft drink use.(6) The observed associations between energy drinks and substance use were signiﬁcantly stronger than those between regular or diet soft drinks and substance use.
The researchers analyzed nationally representative data on nearly 22,000 U.S. secondary school students (eighth, tenth, and twelfth graders). The teens were participants in the University of Michigan's "Monitoring the Future" study, funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.(7) It is an ongoing study of the behaviors, attitudes, and values of American secondary school students, college students, and young adults.
Enjoy Spring!!! Happy Passover!
1. Gayar OH, Ruterbusch JJ, Elshaikh M, Cote M, Ghanem T, Hall F, and Siddiqui F. Oropharyngeal Carcinoma in Young Adults An Alarming National Trend. International Journal of Radiation Oncology * Biology * Physics. Volume 87, Issue 2, Supplement, Page S436, 1 October 2013.
2. Research presented at the recent Multidisciplinary Head and Neck Cancer Symposium in Scottsdale, AZ. International Journal of Radiation Oncology, February 1, 2014, Vol. 88:2, pp. 470-471.
3. Mapstone M, Cheema AK, Fiandaca MS, et al. Plasma phospholipids identify antecedent memory impairment in older adults. Nat Med, 2014/03/09/, online advance online publication. Nature Publishing Group, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited. http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nm.3466.
6. Terry-McElrath YM, O'Malley PM, and Johnston LD. Energy Drinks, Soft Drinks, and Substance Use Among United States Secondary School Students. J Addict Med, Volume 8, Number 1, pp. 6-13, January/February 2014.