Sprague Word

The future and more from Richard Sprague

Does Listerine Cause Cancer?

Posted by sprague on May 14, 2007

My hygienist scared me last week when she mentioned during my appointment that I shouldn’t use Listerine or other alcohol-based mouthwashes. Like heavy alcohol consumption, it’s been linked to increased level of mouth cancer, she said, and you should either stop using it or switch to a safer, non-alcohol type. I was skeptical that such an old, mainstream product could be carcinogenic, but she assured me that the medical studies were there to prove it. So I checked.

Short answer: she’s wrong.

It’s true that Listerine contains alcohol — 21.6% by volume, something to keep in mind if Prohibition ever makes a comeback. Alcoholics are known to suffer from more cancers (especially mouth cancers) and there are studies which show a link. But alcohol does not cause cancer in the lab, so many scientists are skeptical of these studies, especially since high alcohol use can be associated with plenty of other bad habits, like smoking or high-stress lifestyles.

As for Listerine, the most exhaustive analysis to date, published in August 2003 in the Journal of the American Dental Association, concluded: “It is unlikely that the use of mouthwashes that contain alcohol increases the risk of developing [cancer]”. They looked at nine studies, six of which flat-out concluded there was no link between mouthwash and cancer. Of the remaining three, one proved incorrect on a follow-up and the others suffered from clear sample bias. For example, many users of mouthwash are smokers — if the study doesn’t control for smoking, what good is it?

In fact, the Nov 1, 2006 issue of the Journal of the American Dental Association even went so far as to recommend it, along with brushing and flossing, as part of oral hygiene.

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12 Responses to “Does Listerine Cause Cancer?”

  1. Anonymous said

    See this – http://www.news.com.au/dailytelegraph/story/0,22049,24896583-5001021,00.html

  2. Anonymous said

    yeah blame the listerine chain smokers

  3. Anonymous said

    Yes it does: http://www.news.com.au/dailytelegraph/story/0,22049,24896583-5001021,00.html

  4. I think ur surname is cool coz its like 1 letter off my favourite city. Anyway looks like the latest results are leaning toward ‘yes it does’.

  5. Anonymous said

    Anonymous, note the following paragraph:”The ethanol in mouthwash is thought to allow cancer-causing substances to permeate the lining of the mouth more easily and cause harm.”This means that Listerine itself probably does not cause the cancer. Only if you’re a smoker or subject to inhaling other carcinogenic substances will the chance of developing mouth cancer be increased. Sure, there was a study involving 3210 people which claims that use of Listerine itself increases cancer risk, but 3210 hardly represents a larde proportion of the whole world!! Furthermore, note the use of “thought to”. Seems to imply that they’re not 100% certain either.

  6. Anonymous said

    I am 26 years old. I never smoked, and never picked up drinking alcohol. Nobody in my family has been diagnosed with caner. I have used Listerine 3 times daily since I was 10. About 2 months ago I was diagnosed with diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma on my tongue.

  7. Anonymous said

    My uncle has recently been diagnosed with advanced squamous cell carcinoma with lesions on the tongue, tonsils, pharynx, which have been removed. Unfortunately the cancer has spread and there is a tumour invading his carotid artery which cannot be surgically removed. His prognosis is very poor and he is unlikely to survive the next year. He has never smoked a cigarette and only enjoys the occasional beer. He has been a daily user of Listerine for as long as I can remember (at least 25 years). I can't help but wonder if there is a link.

  8. Short answer: she's wrong. It's true that Listerine contains alcohol — 21.6% by volume, something to keep in mind if Prohibition ever makes a comeback, thanks for this information and have a nice day

  9. Anonymous said

    Animal tests show no cancer link:http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20878032

  10. Graham K said

    refer from 2009 http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/sydney-nsw/mouthwash-linked-to-cancer/story-e6freuzi-1111118530255 The 3210 people are from around the world, and while not a large number, still indicates that Listerine was the main 'ingredient' that was common among them all. Why take the risk?? And get rid of the fluoride toothpaste while your at it. Why put the 9th most dangerous chemical into your mouth? Or your water for that matter… That's right, it is a by-product from fertiliser & someone figured a way to get rid of it!!

  11. Cialis said

    Don't a lot of things cause cancer nowadays?

  12. Hi. I found this post really interesting and really useful. Thank you for taking the time to publish this information very useful.

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