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Postmenopausal Women with Gum Disease Face Greater Cancer Risk

Written by Consumer Guide to Dentistry   Last modified on January 26, 2018

When it comes to the importance of preventive dentistry, we here at Consumer Guide to Dentistry sound like a broken record. But, there is a reason the concept of preventative dentistry is a recurring theme throughout our site; the potentially high cost of reconstructive dental care and the number of serious systemic health conditions that have been linked with poor oral health. Preventative care today, savings tomorrow.

One of the more common oral health conditions that comes up time and again in the context of preventive dentistry is gum disease (periodontitis). In addition to causing all sorts of dental problems including loose and sensitive teeth, painful, swollen, bleeding gums and bad breath, gum disease also has been linked with systemic, life-threatening health issues like heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Now a study from the University of Buffalo (UB) is linking gum disease with yet another serious, systemic health issue: cancer.

Published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, the UB study found that postmenopausal women with a history of gum disease face a 14 percent higher risk of developing cancer.

Nearly 66,000 postmenopausal women between the ages of 54 and 86 participated in the study between 1999 and 2003, with cancer outcomes being monitored through September of 2013. More than 7,100 of the participants developed cancer during this monitoring period. Participants with a history of gum disease were three times more likely to develop esophageal cancer than other participants, with lung cancer, gallbladder cancer, melanoma and breast cancer all having a significantly higher risk factor too.

It should be noted that the study was reliant on the participants to self-report gum disease on questionnaires provided during the 4-year study period. However, researchers are confident that the data clearly establishes a connection. That said, the exact nature of this connection is not clear.  Researchers suggest that gum disease could simply be a marker for overall health.

Protect Your Teeth, Protect Yourself

The good news is that gum disease is 100 percent preventable. (Broken record alert.) Adhering to the ADA-recommended twice yearly visits to your dentist for a checkup, and maintaining a healthy habit of brushing, flossing and rinsing with mouthwash can help avoid oral health issues like gum disease, reducing the risk of serious systemic conditions known to be related to gum disease like heart disease, stroke, diabetes or cancer.

To read more about the oral-systemic connection, check out our detailed article on the subject.

To read more about the study, check out the UB article: http://www.buffalo.edu/news/releases/2017/08/001.html