Oncology (General Cancer)/mouth wash causing cancer?


Hello, Dr. Higby

Can you tell me whether the mouth wash CHLORHEXIDINE 0.12% can cause cancer, be it oral cancer, or other cancer?

By Googling, I found one citation, that speaks of a German trial, which showed no connection between the mouthwash and cancer. But there were many, many other sites which gave me no help.

Can you advise?



there are several chemicals which are known to promote cancers of some sort or another.  Some (like the nitrate compounds caused by barbecuing meat) have a very low but real rate; others, like benzene, have a very high rate.  In addition to cause and effect, it's important to know how much is necessary, and which tissue it interacts with.  You've probably heard of dioxins, chemicals which can cause cancer when injected into the blood stream.  Fortunately they are very poorly absorbed by the intestine or lungs, so really don't make much of a health impact.  We know some things about why certain chemicals cause cancer.  The short answer to your question, based upon the clinical trial, the long and widespead use of the agent, and the fact that it doesn't resemble chemicals known to cause cancer is that Chlorhexidine is not a cause of oral or other cancer.  Hope this helps.  

Oncology (General Cancer)

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Donald Higby, M.D.


I can answer almost all questions related to the treatment and natural course of most kinds of cancer, especially cancers of prostate, colon, lung and breast.


I have been a practicing medical oncologist for 36 years, and have been chief of service at a major medical center for 25 years. I've also done research in cancer treatments.

American Society of Clinical Oncology

New England Journal of Medicine American Journal of Medicine Journal of the American Society of Clinical Oncology Hematology Transfusion Medicine

MD, Stanford University Internal Medicine residency, St. Louis University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO Medical Oncology Fellowship, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Buffalo, NY

Awards and Honors
America's Best Physicians, last 14 years

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