Cancer risk increases for older women with gum disease
The link between gum disease and systemic illnesses is becoming clearer with each passing day. A recent US study by University at Buffalo indicates elevated risk of cancer for older women who have gum disease. These findings emphasize the importance of oral healthcare throughout life, and may shed light into connections between periodontal disease and other health issues.
Background on gum disease
The warm, moist environment of the oral cavity hosts hundreds of strains of bacteria. Some of these microorganisms are beneficial, while others are a threat to oral health. They feed on sugars and starches left behind by food consumption. Bacteria then excrete acidic waste which irritates gum tissues. Resulting inflammation causes gums to loosen from teeth, allowing infection to go deeper. Without treatment, bone and ligaments that hold teeth in place deteriorate. Teeth are lost or must be extracted.
- The size of the study group – 65,869 participants – was large enough to produce statistically reliable results.
- Research subjects were post-menopausal women with an average age of 68, primarily Caucasian.
- Breast cancer was the most prevalent of the 7,149 incidents of cancer in research subjects.
- Periodontal disease indicated high risk of esophageal cancer. Presumable, because of close proximity to the mouth, oral pathogens easily reach esophageal mucosa.
- While no direct implication could be found, incidence of gallbladder cancer was also high, possibly related to chronic inflammation of gum disease.
- Tobacco is definitely a risk factor for both gum disease and cancer, among current and former smokers.
- The study concludes that women in this age group who have a history of gum disease are at 14 percent increased risk of developing cancer.
This study provides invaluable insight into a disease that impacts the lives of millions of Australians, as average lifespan continues to increase with medical advances. It underscores the critical nature of good home hygiene, regular dental checkups, and early treatment of gum disease.
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