Over the years research about periodontal disease, or gum disease, has revealed a close association with many chronic diseases and conditions such as stroke, diabetes and heart disease. Links between gum disease and head, neck, oral and lung cancer have been found in past research as well. To add to the growing list is one study that links higher breast cancer risks with gum disease among postmenopausal women.
According to the breastcancer.org website, a study published in the journal of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention followed 74,000 postmenopausal women to determine if there was a link between gum disease and breast cancer. Medical information taken by researches indicates that none of these women had been diagnosed with breast cancer. Yet by the end of it the most notable reveal was that women who had gum disease, but had never smoked, still had a 6 percent increased risk of breast cancer.
In this particular study, researchers tracked 73,737 postmenopausal women over the span of six years. Each study participant was designated as either a non-smoker, or a smoker who had quit within the last 20 years, or a smoker who had quit over 20 years ago. After 6 ½ years had passed, 2,124 study participants reported having breast cancer.
The most remarkable part of the study was that women with gum disease had a 6 percent higher risk of getting breast cancer than women who did not have periodontal disease, even if they never smoked their whole lives. Researchers of the study claim there are many reasons for an association between breast cancer and periodontal disease.
• Inflammation, even gum inflammation, can have an effect on another part of the body.
• They’ve yet to uncover other risk factors that increase the chances of getting both breast cancer and gum disease.
• Oral bacteria from flossing, chewing and tooth brushing, while clears from the body initially, can still travel via the bloodstream to other parts of the body.
While many researchers and professionals debate the conclusions of the study and continue to research the link between cancer, and other debilitating conditions and their associations with gum disease, we’re still far from declaring that gum disease causes breast cancer. Medical technologies and new methodologies in measurement allow researchers to account for factors that could not be effectively measured before. But we still have a long way to go.
In the meantime, there are ways to lower your risk for gum disease and breast cancer. Overall, good optimal health includes eating right, getting off the couch more than once a blue moon, avoiding alcohol and cigarettes, and last but not least, taking the best care you can of your gums and teeth. Taking all of these factors seriously, means lowering your risk for many diseases, including gum disease. To learn how you can lower your risk of breast cancer, check out the Lower your Risk here.
Besides brushing and flossing every day, be sure to do your own teeth and gum check for any of these warning signs:
• Tender, red swollen gums that make it difficult to floss or even brush
• Loose teeth
• Sensitive teeth
• Bad breathe
• A bad taste in your mouth that refuses to leave
• Gums that have pulled away from your teeth
• Slight bleeding from flossing or tooth brushing
Our dentists understand that yearly dental checkups can lower your risk for many life-threatening conditions. It’s also the best reason to offer a wide range of dental services to our patients of all ages in a safe, relaxing environment. So while you’re busy taking care of your body, you can bet we’ll continue to do our part by keeping your smile healthy.