Oral microbiota are among the most diverse in the human body. More than 700 species have been identified in the mouth, and new sequencing methods are allowing us to discover even more species. The anatomy of the oral cavity is different from that of other body sites.

The oral cavity has mucosal surfaces (the tongue, the buccal mucosa, the gingiva, and the palate), hard tissues (the teeth), and exocrine gland tissue (major and minor salivary glands), all of which present unique features for microbiota composition.

The connection between oral microbiota and diseases of the human body has been under intensive research in the past years. Furthermore, oral microbiota have been associated with cancer development. Patients suffering from periodontitis, a common advanced gingival disease caused by bacterial dysbiosis, have a 2–5 times higher risk of acquiring any cancer compared to healthy individuals.

Some oral taxa, especially Porphyromonas gingivalis and Fusobacterium nucleatum, have been shown to have carcinogenic potential by several different mechanisms. They can inhibit apoptosis, activate cell proliferation, promote cellular invasion, induce chronic inflammation, and directly produce carcinogens. These microbiota changes can already be seen with potentially malignant lesions of the oral cavity. The causal relationship between microbiota and cancer is complex.

It is difficult to accurately study the impact of specific bacteria on carcinoma development in humans. This review focuses on the elucidating the interactions between oral cavity bacterial microbiota and cancer. We gather literature on the current knowledge of the bacterial contribution to cancer development and the mechanisms behind it.

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