Gum disease significantly increases the risk of cancer in older women, according to a new study.
Researchers at the State University of New York (SUNY) at Buffalo have just released their findings from an extended study of 65,869 women, ages 54 to 86 years. The study was conducted over a period of 10 years. The study used data collected between 1999 and 2003, taken from questionnaires in which study participants detailed their periodontal disease history. The researchers then evaluated cancer outcomes through September 2013.
Analysis of all the data showed that a history of periodontal disease was associated with a 14% higher risk of developing any cancer.
The study also found strong correlations between periodontal disease and specific sorts of cancer. The highest risk was cancer of the esophagus — which was more than three times more likely in women with periodontal disease. Gallbladder cancer, melanoma, lung and breast cancer were also associated with significantly higher risk.
As one would expect certain cancers, such lung cancer, were seen more frequently in women who both smoked and had periodontal disease. But other cancers such as melanoma, were associated with higher risk in the women who had never smoked but did report periodontal disease.
The findings from the new study were just published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention in an article entitled “Periodontal Disease and Incident Cancer Risk among Postmenopausal Women: Results from the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Cohort”
“Our study findings serve to provide further evidence that periodontal disease is linked to cancer and support the need for further investigation into how periodontal disease contributes to increased cancer risk,” lead study investigator Ngozi Nwizu, Ph.D., assistant professor of oral and maxillofacial pathology at The University of Texas School of Dentistry, said.
This study is one of the few that examined periodontal disease as a risk factor for total cancer, and the only one that has focused on older women.
It is important to note that the study relies on self-reported data, so the number of participants with periodontal disease may have been underreported. That said, the large number of study participants strongly reinforce the research findings.
What You Need To Know About Gum Disease
The mouth is home to over 600 types of bacteria—some helpful, and others harmful. Many of the harmful types thrive in the sticky biofilm called plaque, which stubbornly clings to the tooth surfaces. If they aren’t removed regularly, these microorganisms can cause tooth decay and gum disease.
There are two types of gum disease: early-stage gingivitis has occurred in 85% of the adult population, while severe gum disease (periodontitis) is believed to have affected about 12% of Australian adults. Periodontal disease