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Home Home Oral Health Gum Disease Linked to Cancer Risk in Older Women?
Gum Disease Linked to Cancer Risk in Older Women?
News - WebMD Oral Health
Jupiter, FL Dentist

By Steven Reinberg

HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Aug. 1, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- A new study links gum disease with an increased risk of several types of cancer in postmenopausal women, even in women who never smoked.

So-called periodontal disease was tied to a 14 percent higher risk of developing any type of cancer, the investigators found. But the greatest risk was for esophageal cancer, which was more than three times more likely in older women who had gum disease than those who didn't.

In addition, gum disease was associated with a higher risk of lung cancer, gallbladder cancer, melanoma and breast cancer, the findings showed.

"These findings may provide a new target to test an intervention for cancer prevention -- oral hygiene and periodontal disease treatment and prevention," said lead researcher Jean Wactawski-Wende. She is dean of the School of Public Health and Health Professions at the State University of New York at Buffalo.

Breast cancer, lung cancer and gallbladder cancer were linked with higher risk among women who smoked and had gum disease.

For those women who never smoked but had gum disease, other cancers, such as melanoma, were associated with higher risk, the researchers said.

Although gum disease has been associated with heart disease, the exact reason it may be tied to an increased risk of cancer isn't known, Wactawski-Wende said.

She speculated that gum disease could be a marker for overall health.

"However, 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.

Because this study doesn't prove a direct cause-and-effect relationship, a study designed to look specifically at poor oral hygiene and the association with cancer could help define what might link the two, experts said.

For the study, the investigators collected data on nearly 66,000 women, aged 54 to 86, who took part in the Women's Health Initiative Observational Study.

The women reported gum disease on questionnaires given between 1999 and 2003. The researchers monitored the cancer outcomes through September 2013.

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