Gum dis­ease could in­crease cancer risk

The Globe and Mail (Prairie Edition) - - GLOBE LIFE & ARTS -

Pe­ri­odon­tal dis­ease in older women is as­so­ci­ated with an in­creased risk for cancer, a new study con­cludes.

Pre­vi­ous stud­ies have sug­gested a link, but this new anal­y­sis, in Cancer Epi­demi­ol­ogy, Biomark­ers & Preven­tion, of­fers ad­di­tional ev­i­dence on spe­cific can­cers.

Re­searchers fol­lowed more than 65,000 women, with an av­er­age of age 68, par­tic­i­pat­ing in a larger health study. They gath­ered in­for­ma­tion on pe­ri­odon­tal dis­ease with self-re­ports, and over an av­er­age of eight years of follow-up, they found 7,149 can­cers.

The study con­trolled for race, age, fam­ily his­tory of cancer, smok­ing and other vari­ables. Gum dis­ease was as­so­ci­ated with an over­all 14-per-cent in­creased risk for cancer, and a 12-per-cent in­crease even in women who never smoked.

The in­creased risk from pe­ri­odon­tal dis­ease was high­est for esophageal and gall­blad­der can­cers, with in­creased risk also for can­cers of the breast and lung and for melanoma of the skin. But gum dis­ease was not as­so­ci­ated with can­cers of the pan­creas, liver or lower di­ges­tive tract.

Al­though the ex­act mech­a­nism is un­known, gum pathogens could reach sites in the body through swal­lowed saliva, caus­ing in­flam­ma­tion in other or­gans, the au­thors sug­gest.

“We know that treat­ing gum dis­ease pre­vents tooth loss,” said the se­nior au­thor, Jean Wactawski-Wende, a pro­fes­sor of epi­demi­ol­ogy at the Univer­sity at Buf­falo. “It could also be help­ful in man­ag­ing cancer and other sys­temic dis­eases.”

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