A new U.S. study has found that women who have a history of gum disease face a higher risk of several types of cancer, particularly tumours in the esophagus and breasts.
The study took place between 1999 to 2013, and involved more than 65,000 post-menopausal women. Previous research had indicated a correlation between people with gum disease and a higher risk of certain cancers, but this study is the first to focus on gum disease’s link to all cancers, and all within a female population.
According to the study, published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention (a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research), "A history of periodontal disease was associated with a 14 percent higher risk of developing any cancer."
Researchers also uncovered a "significantly higher risk" of lung cancer, gallbladder cancer, melanoma and breast cancer. The study also revealed that, "The strongest association was for cancer of the esophagus, which was more than three times more likely in women with periodontal disease than women."
"This study is the first national study focused on women, particularly older women," said senior author Jean Wactawski-Wende, dean of the School of Public Health at State University of New York at Buffalo. More research is needed to find out exactly how gum disease may promote cancer, she added.
One theory is that harmful pathogens could be carried in saliva and dental plaque, or through diseased gum tissues into the blood circulation. "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.