There appears to be controversy with respect to whether or not mouthwash containing alcohol may be related to oral cancer. This controversy arises out the studies that show a link between oral cancer and those that drink alcohol.
Michael Douglas is the most recent case in point. He has been reported to be a heavy smoker and imbibe alcohol on what is rumored to be on frequent occasions. The obvious link in theory is that most mouthwash formulas contain alcohol, so the conclusion is that a link to mouthwash must exist here also. The problem is there are no conclusive studies and at this time there appears to be insufficient evidence to alter the ADA’s approval of mouthwash containing alcohol as an effective method for the prevention and reduction of gingivitis and plaque above the gumline when used as directed. The ADA Council on Scientific Affairs awarded the ADA Seal of Acceptance to these products after a thorough review of data on their safety and effectiveness.
Of all the studies published on this topic, beginning in 1979, four studies reported some positive results while five found no association. (citations omitted) What we know is that none of the criteria for causality have been fulfilled by the studies that have been published so far. The International Agency for Research on Cancer, an extension of the World Health Organization, now identifies the consumption of ethanol in alcoholic beverages as a carcinogenic risk.
Alcohol abuse is associated with cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx and esophagus. Ibid. However, the reason for this association is not fully understood – it may be due to a direct effect of alcohol on these tissue. Because of the conflicting studies and endorsements I could advise you to keep using alcohol formulated mouth rinses. But if you are concerned and wish to stay on the safe side of the debate, there are non-alcohol based mouth rinses available that appear to be effective in the prevention of gingivitis and plaque.
Our job is to try and educate you on the contemporary issues we face in addressing your oral health and if there are any questions you would like to pose, please feel free to contact us for a free consultation.
Novy Scheinfeld, DDS, PC
ZoAnna Scheinfeld, MS, DMD
Hanna Orland, DMD
290 Carpenter Drive, 200A
Sandy Springs, GA 30328
3781 Chamblee Dunwoody Road
Chamblee, GA 30341
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 International Agency for Research on Cancer. IARC monographs on the evaluation of carcinogenic risks to humans. Volume 96. Alcoholic beverage consumption and ethyl carbamate (urethane). Lyon, France: 6-13 February 2007.
 Lachenmeier DW. Safety evaluation of topical applications of ethanol on the skin and inside the oral cavity. J Occup Med Toxicol 2008;3:26.