Fluoride is an essential mineral that is routinely added to the drinking water in many countries. Fluoride has proven to be beneficial in strengthening the bones and teeth. However, there are many theories about the health effects of fluoride. Many people worldwide are skeptical about the consumption of fluoridated water. Some scientific studies have proposed an active link between fluoride and cancer development.
These studies state that fluoride interferes with the biology and genetics of the body that leads to the development of cancer. One of the most common types of cancer associated with excessive fluoride intake is osteosarcoma. This connection is still debatable and requires solid high-level research to prove the link between fluoride and the development of bone cancer. Let’s dive into the article to take a closer look at this controversial link and find out how fluoride can cause bone cancer.
Fluoride is one of the most abundant naturally occurring minerals to be precise; it is the 13th most abundant element on earth. Fluoride is typically found in the air, soil, and water. Chemically, fluoride is an ionic compound of fluorine. (1)
Fluoride is mainly supplied to the people of the community through water fluoridation. It is a process of adding controlled amounts of fluoride in the drinking water. Water fluoridation was mainly started as an initiative to prevent dental caries. The world health organization stated that the optimal level of fluoride in drinking water should be around 0.7 – 1.5 mg/L.
As mentioned above, fluoride was added to the drinking water supply to eradicate the spread of dental caries among the people of the community. Dental caries is one of the most prevalent dental diseases in the United States. Untreated dental caries often causes terrible pain, infection, and cavity formation. In severe cases, it can also lead to the loss of a tooth.
Children are commonly affected by dental caries. A study showed the reduction of caries and the formation of fewer cavities among children after they started drinking fluoridated water. Moreover, fluoridated water reduced cavity formation by 20-40% in adults. (2) Today, the majority of the population in the United States uses fluoridated water. However, there are certain risks associated with fluoride.
What is the link between fluoride and cancer development?
- The link between fluoride and development of cancer first started during the 1991 analysis done by the U.S. National Toxicology Program. Their study was performed on laboratory rats. They found the evidence that male rats who were exposed to high levels of fluoride for a minimum of two years showed an increased risk of osteosarcoma (bone cancer).
- A similar study was performed by scientists at Harvard University, where boys were exposed to fluoridated water during their teenage years. The study revealed an elevated risk of developing osteosarcoma. (3)
However, both of the studies mentioned above failed to show this connection among the female subjects. Typically, the theory behind the studies reveals that exposure to high amounts of fluoride leads to the accumulation of fluoride in the growing parts of the bone. Growth plates are the most common sites for the development of osteosarcoma, especially during growth spurts.
Controversy related to the cancerous effects of fluoride
- An ecological study concluded that water fluoridation had no impact on the increased risk of bone cancer among children and adults.
- Another detailed study conducted in Texas examined the variations of fluoride levels in drinking water and found no relation between the varied levels and development of osteosarcoma. (4)
Therefore, there is no definite evidence that proves the link between fluoride consumption and the development of osteosarcoma. More detailed and advanced studies are required to prove this fact.
How to reduce fluoride exposure?
To maintain optimal fluoride intake, it is necessary to keep a check on the amount of fluoride consumed per day. There are two ways to reduce fluoride exposure –
- Contact the local community or public source to know the level of fluoride present in the drinking water.
- Note all the products that contain fluoride and calculate the daily intake of all those products.
- Switch to bottled water, which doesn’t contain fluoride. (5)
- Many water filters help to remove fluoride from tap water and provide fluoride-free water at home.
- Consult a dentist or a nutritionist to modify your daily fluoride intake.
Take away message
Water fluoridation is the most effective and economical public health measure, which is used to prevent tooth decay. Ideally, optimal fluoride levels range from 0.7 – 1.5 ppm. Water fluoridation was initially started as a measure to prevent the spread of dental caries and cavity formation. However, fluoride can be a double-edged sword.
Excess intake of fluoride often leads to dental and skeletal fluorosis. Many studies have also revealed a link between fluoride and development of osteosarcoma – a type of bone cancer. However, this revelation is still debatable as there is no substantial evidence to prove the correlation between fluoride and the development of osteosarcoma. It is essential to understand the daily fluoride requirements and avoid excessive intake. Consult your dentist or nutritionist to keep a check on your daily fluoride intake.