UB study suggests connection between gum disease and cancer risk

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — A new study from the University at Buffalo is gaining national attention.

It suggests older women with a history of gum disease may also have an elevated cancer risk.

Researchers at UB tracked data on 65,000 post-menopausal women and found those with periodontal problems had a 14 percent higher risk for cancer.

It’s the first study of its kind involving American women. It focuses on women who are 50 to 79 years old. They were tracked over the course of 25 years.

The study found a connection with cancers of the stomach, esophagus, gall bladder, lung, breasts, and malignant melanoma.

The link to esophageal and gallbladder cancers was especially high.

Senior author, Jean Wactawski-Wende, tells us periodontal disease is caused by an accumulation of plaque and bacteria between the teeth and gums. That bacteria can get incorporated into our saliva, which we swallow and transports the bacteria. She also says the bacteria can also be absorbed through gums into our bloodstream causing inflammation and leading to cancer.

“Population wide, it’s a huge number of people that could be affected by this and importantly the fact that gum disease and oral care is something very preventable,” said Wactawski-Wende. “It may just be taking better care of your mouth, seeing a dentist, getting regular cleanings that prevent periodontal progression, might have a positive impact on cancer incidents.”

She says about half of all adults have moderate to severe gum disease.

Roswell Park Cancer Institute is a co-author on the study.

It’s part of the larger ongoing Women’s Health Initiative, which started 25 years ago to study the factors affecting disease and death among post-menopausal women.



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