From cancer to kidney failure: Recurring 'bad breath' could signal three major conditions

In most cases, bad breath reflects poor oral hygiene that has caused a build-up of bacteria in the mouth can. Sometimes, however, bad smells stem from poor intestinal health. According to experts, certain odours should ring alarm bells, as they may be hinting at an underlying malignancy warranting further investigation from doctors.

The Mayo Clinic explains that bad-breath odours vary widely depending on their underlying cause.

In most cases, however, medical conditions like dry mouth, tonsillitis and acid reflux are the cause.

Complications like gastro-oesophageal reflux disease can also cause bad breath, as this disturbs the stomach acids and causes them to travel up the digestive tract.

Alternatively, the body may produce a fish-breath odour if the kidneys fail and the respiratory system becomes affected.

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This could mean the body is struggling to flush dangerous toxins which are accumulating in several parts of the body.

Bill McKenna, the founder of Cognomovement, added: “Bad breath, also known as halitosis, is a common problem that can have a variety of causes.

“In some cases, bad breath may be a sign of an underlying medical condition, including cancer.

“While not all bad breath is caused by cancer, certain types of smell in a person’s breath should be cause for concern.


“When it comes to cancer, there are certain types of smell in a person’s breath that should ring alarm bells.”

The expert explained that a metallic smell may indicate lung cancer or other types of cancer that have metastasised to the lungs.

A mouldy smell may be indicative of lung or throat cancer, while a musty smell can be indicative of liver or kidney cancer.

“It is important to note that bad breath is a common problem that can have a variety of causes, and not all bad breath is caused by cancer,” added Mr McKenna.

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“If you have bad breath and are concerned about it, it is important to see a healthcare professional for an evaluation.”

When cancer produces bad breath, the smell tends to be linked to the concentration of high polyamides in cells.

Some studies have suggested this may help canines detect specific smells from cancer-specific chemicals circulating through the body.

Similar studies have set out to establish whether breath could reveal other conditions, and it transpires that breath may also be linked to heart failure.

In fact, a 2013 study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology showed that heart failure patients could be identified using breath tests.

One factor heart disease and bad breath have in common is gum disease, which can spur inflammation throughout the body.

The AARP explains: “Bacteria can enter your bloodstream through bleeding or diseased gums, which is linked to inflammation, clogged arteries and stroke.”

This is why researchers often find a strong correlation between people who have periodontal disease and people who have cardiovascular disease.


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