Skip to content

Cancer Health Center

Does Fluoridation Up Bone Cancer Risk?

Study Examines Boyhood Drinking of Fluoridated Water and Possible Links to Osteosarcoma
Font Size
A
A
A
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

April 6, 2006 - Boys who drink fluoridated water have an increased risk of a deadly bone cancer, a new study suggests.

Elise Bassin, DDS, completed the study in 2001 for her doctoral dissertation at Harvard, where she now is clinical instructor in oral health policy and epidemiology. The study finally was published in the May issue of Cancer Causes and Control.

Bassin and colleagues' major finding: Boys who grew up in communities that added at least moderate levels of fluoride to their water got bone cancer -- osteosarcoma -- more often than boys who drank water with little or no fluoride.

The risk peaked for boys who drank more highly fluoridated water between the ages of 6 and 8 years -- a time at which children undergo a major growth spurt. By the time they were 20, these boys got bone cancer 5.46 times more often than boys with the lowest consumption. No effect was seen for girls.

Unexpected Results

In a prepared statement provided to WebMD, Bassin says she "was surprised by the results."

"Having a background in dentistry and dental public health, [I] was taught that fluoride at recommended levels is safe and effective for the prevention of dental [cavities]," Bassin says in the statement. "All of [our analyses] were consistent in finding an association between fluoride levels in drinking water and an increased risk of osteosarcoma for males diagnosed before age 20, but not consistently for girls."

It's not surprising that Bassin found a risk for boys but not for girls. Osteosarcoma is about 50% more common in males than in females. And boys tend to have more fluoride in their bones than girls.

Caution About Study

However, a commentary accompanying Bassin's article warns to take her findings with a grain of salt. Ironically, it is from Harvard professor Chester W. Douglass, DMD, PhD. Douglass led Bassin's PhD committee, which approved of the study when it was presented as her doctoral dissertation.

Douglass warns that the Bassin study is based only on a subset of people exposed to fluoridated water. Preliminary results from the entire population of exposed individuals, Douglass writes, show no link between bone cancer and water fluoridation.

Today on WebMD

Colorectal cancer cells
A common one in both men and women.
Lung cancer xray
See it in pictures, plus read the facts.
 
sauteed cherry tomatoes
Fight cancer one plate at a time.
Ovarian cancer illustration
Do you know the symptoms?
 
Jennifer Goodman Linn self-portrait
Blog
what is your cancer risk
HEALTH CHECK
 
colorectal cancer treatment advances
Video
breast cancer overview slideshow
SLIDESHOW
 
prostate cancer overview
SLIDESHOW
lung cancer overview slideshow
SLIDESHOW
 
ovarian cancer overview slideshow
SLIDESHOW
Actor Michael Douglas
Article