Older women with periodontal disease (gum disease) may be at a higher risk for cancer, say researchers. A collaborative study by State University of New York at Buffalo, University of Texas School of Dentistry in Houston, TX, and other U.S. institutions has found links between periodontal disease and breast cancer, esophageal cancer and cancer of the gallbladder. Post-menopausal women were found to be at a higher risk for these cancer types if they had gum disease, but periodontal disease can increase your risk for cancer and other health problems at any age.
Older adults at much higher risk for periodontal disease
Periodontal disease is characterized by an inflammation of the gums due to a chronic infection in this area. Gum disease is particularly common in older adults, with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stating that more than 70 percent of persons age 65 and over are afflicted by this oral health condition. Gum disease also tends to affect more men than women; however, an estimated 38.4 percent of women in the U.S. have the disease. While gum disease is already known to burden the immune system, lower organ health and negatively affect the gut microbiome, until now there had never been any research conducted regarding gum disease and the increased general risk of cancer.
For the study, the team of researchers looked at periodontal disease within a cohort of 65,869 women from the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study. All were between 54 and 86 years of age, and most were Caucasian. Periodontal disease raises risk for esophageal, breast, lung, gallbladder and skin cancer Gum disease was assessed through a questionnaire, and the women were monitored for the appearance of cancer for an average of 8.32 years. By study’s end, 7,149 women had received a cancer diagnosis. The women with periodontal disease had a 14 percent higher risk of cancer of any type.
Esophageal cancer was the most common cancer type that women with periodontal disease suffered, as they were 3 times more likely to get it than women without gum disease. This is likely because of the proximity of the esophagus in relation to the oral cavity. Periodontal can easily infect the esophageal mucosa – raising the risk of cancer at this site. Other cancer types that occurred more often in women with gum disease included breast cancer, lung cancer, melanoma (skin cancer) and gallbladder cancer. Practice good oral health to avoid gum disease and reduce your cancer risk
One of the top precursors for cancer is chronic infection and inflammation, and these are among the primary symptoms of periodontal disease. Women who smoked and had periodontal disease were at an even higher risk for cancer of all types. The study results were published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. No doubt, this study provides even more evidence that oral health is crucial to overall health. Daily brushing, hydrofloss usage, essential oils and regular visits to your dentist can go a long way toward protecting your health. And, obviously, never ignore the signs of gum disease like, soreness or bleeding gums. For best results, be sure to see a well-trained, biological dentist – who understands the implications of poor oral heath and, more importantly, how to help you resolve problems – safely and effectively.
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