A history of periodontal disease increased risk for total cancer among postmenopausal women, regardless of smoking status, according to results of a prospective cohort study.
Older women with gum infections are more likely to get many common cancers than their peers who have ideal oral health, a recent study suggests.
Although a majority of the cancer cases that were reported were breast cancer, the researchers found the risk associated with a history of periodontal disease was the highest for a rarer type of the disease, esophageal cancer.
Researchers also uncovered a "significantly higher risk" of lung cancer, gallbladder cancer, melanoma and breast cancer. Almost 50 percent of adults 30 years and older have some form of periodontal (gum) disease and this number is even higher among adults 65 years and older, according to a 2012 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The researchers evaluated cancer outcomes through September 2013.
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"The esophagus is in close proximity to the oral cavity, and so periodontal pathogens may more easily gain access to and infect the esophageal mucosa and promote cancer risk at that site", Wactawski-Wende said.
"This study is the first national study focused on women, particularly older women", said Wactawski-Wende.
Multivariate analyses adjusted for pack-years of smoking and BMI linked periodontal disease with a 14% increased risk for total cancer (HR = 1.14; 95% CI, 1.08-1.2).
Author Comment: Wactawski-Wende said the biological mechanisms that connect periodontal disease and cancer are not yet fully understood.
Wactawski-Wende, Ngozi N. Nwizu, BDS, MMSc, PhD, assistant professor of oral and maxillofacial pathology at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, and colleagues investigated factors that affected morbidity and mortality among 65,869 older women (aged 54 to 86 years; mean age, 68.3 years) enrolled in the Women's Health Initiative Observational Study.
'So the adverse effects of periodontal disease are more likely to be seen among postmenopausal women, simply due to their older age'. Women with periodontal disease were also 31 percent more likely to be diagnosed with lung tumors, 73 percent more likely to get gallbladder cancers, 13 percent more likely to have breast tumors and 23 percent more likely to have melanoma.
Limitations: The authors said that because the study used self-reported data, the prevalence of periodontal disease may have been under-reported.
More research is needed to really define the connection, he added.
Inflamed gums is a symptom of periodontal disease. That according to a new study appearing in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention.
The link may not be direct, but could simply be that those with poor oral hygiene are less likely to take care of themselves in other ways, she noted. Then, bacteria may lodge in other body sites causing inflammation that may increase the risk of cancer.
The report was published August 1 in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. Most participants reported visits to the dentist at least twice annually.