A new study suggests that women with gum disease or a history of gum disease are at a higher risk of developing certain types of cancer. These cancers include tumors in the esophagus and breasts. The researchers uncovered that a history of gum disease increased the risk of certain cancers by 14 percent.
Esophageal cancer was the highest among women with a history of gum disease, with rates being three times higher compared to women without a history of gum disease. The researchers also saw an association between gum disease and lung cancer, gallbladder cancer, melanoma, and breast cancer.
The study involved over 65,000 post-menopausal women who answered questionnaires regarding their health. The women were followed for eight years on average. Previous research in the field of gum disease has also uncovered a higher risk of certain cancers.
This is the first study to focus on the risk of certain cancers among older women with a history of gum disease.
Although the researchers uncovered an association between gum disease and certain cancer, the link between the two isn’t clear yet. One theory suggests that harmful pathogens can be carried through saliva and enter the blood, which is circulated around the body. Senior author of the study Jean Wactawski-Wende explained, “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.”
What can be done about gum disease
Every dentist has seen the damage of gum disease. Gum disease is caused by bacteria growing in your tooth and gum area. The bacteria irritate your gums, causing them to swell and bleed. Smoking and the use of spit tobacco can also cause gum disease. Sometimes, poor oral hygiene can contribute to the problem. Flossing can significantly reduce your risk of gum disease. In recent years, studies have shown that dried licorice root is effective in killing the bacteria that cause gum disease.
While preventative action is the key to good overall health, most medical professionals agree that it is even truer when it comes to oral health. Eating nutritious foods, brushing and flossing regularly, avoiding sugary snacks, and visiting a dentist on a regular basis has proved to make a big difference for a lot of people.