Breast cancer risk higher in postmenopausal women with periodontal disease

By: Emily Lunardo | Health News | Monday, December 21, 2015 - 12:30 PM

Female dental hygienist brushing the teeth of a patientPostmenopausal women with periodontal disease are at a higher risk to develop breast cancer according to latest findings. Additionally, a history of smoking increased the risk of experiencing periodontal disease.

Periodontal disease is associated with heart disease, stroke and diabetes; it is an inflammatory disease which affects oral health. Previous findings uncovered a link between periodontal disease and oral, esophageal, head and neck, pancreatic, and lung cancers and so that is what prompted researchers to study a potential link between periodontal disease and breast cancer.

The researchers followed 73,737 postmenopausal women all without a prior or current diagnosis of breast cancer at the beginning of the study. Periodontal disease was found in 26.1 percent of the women and smoking status was also recorded as smokers tend to have higher rates of periodontal disease.

After a 6.7 year follow-up, 2,124 women were diagnosed with breast cancer and by examining overall risk researchers found that women with periodontal disease were 14 percent more likely to develop breast cancer.

Among women who quit smoking in the last 20 years, those with periodontal disease were still 32 percent higher to develop breast cancer. Those who never smoked or quit over 20 years ago had a six to eight percent risk of breast cancer if they had periodontal disease.

Lead researcher, Jo L. Freudenheim, said, “We know that the bacteria in the mouths of current and former smokers who quit recently are different from those in the mouths of non-smokers.” A possible explanation for the association what that in those with periodontal disease bacteria can enter the body’s blood stream and end up in breast tissue but additional research is required to establish the link.

The findings were published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.


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