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Gum Disease/Cancer Risk Identified Among Older Women [BLOG]

  • September 19, 2017

A new study has found a link between specific cancers and gum disease in older women.

Those cancers are: lung, esophageal, gallbladder, breast and melanoma. The most increased risk from gum disease was for esophageal cancer.

Older women who had gum disease were more than three times more likely to be diagnosed with esophageal cancer than those without gum disease, according to WebMD.

The study involved 65,869 women between ages 54 and 86, and it found that the gum disease/cancer connection existed regardless of whether the women were smokers.

Gum disease was associated with a 14 percent increased risk for cancer, and a 12 percent increase in women who never smoked, the Times article stated.

Over the course of more than eight years, researchers identified 7,149 cancers, according to the study. The research came about because scientists found that few studies had looked at gum disease as a risk factor for total cancer, and none had focused on older women, according to the journal “Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention,” where the study was published this month. Researchers examined whether gum disease is associated with “incident cancer among postmenopausal women in the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study.”

Researchers don’t yet understand why gum disease is tied to increased cancer risks, but lead researcher Jean Wactawski-Wende said it may be that gum disease is an indicator of overall health.

“There is real potential for local and systemic inflammation resulting from the bacteria in the oral cavity reaching other sites through ingestion or inhalation, as well as bacteria entering the bloodstream through oral tissues,” Wactawski-Wende said.

Dental and cancer experts said the study had one limitation: it relied on the participants to self-report their gum disease.

“Additional studies that look at poor oral hygiene and its cancer associations might better define the link,” said Collegeville periodontist Dr. Henry Hsu.

“We are glad to see this sort of research because periodontists have been working for years to educate patients on the importance of maintaining healthy gums,” said Collegeville periodontist Dr. David DiGiallorenzo. “There are associations between periodontal health and overall health, and we want patients to understand that taking care of their teeth and gums can maintain good systemic health.”

You can read more information about the connection between lung cancer and gum disease in this article we published last year.