New research shows that periodontal disease places older women at a heightened risk of several types of cancer, such as oesophageal cancer, breast cancer, and gallbladder cancer, especially in mature women. Jean Wactawski-Wende, from the New York University at Buffalo, who led the research team has, for the first time, investigated the association between gum disease and several types of cancer in women.
Recent research has shown that women with perio disease are more likely to develop breast cancer. However, until now, no studies had looked at the impact of the condition on cancer risk more generally. The new study confirmed previous findings, but it also revealed previously undetected connections, such as the link between gum disease and gallbladder cancer. The research has been published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.
The researchers found that women who had reported a diagnosis of periodontal disease had a 14 percent higher risk of developing any type of cancer. Oesophageal cancer was the type most frequently associated with gum disease, as women with periodontitis were more than three times likelier to develop it compared with women without oral health problems. "The oesophagus is in close proximity to the oral cavity, and so periodontal pathogens may more easily gain access to and infect the oesophageal mucosa and promote cancer risk at that site," explains Dr. Wactawski-Wende.
The association between periodontitis and gallbladder cancer was a new discovery, according to the researchers. Lead author Dr. Ngozi Nwizu, from the University of Texas School of Dentistry in Houston, TX, emphasizes the importance of this finding. "Chronic inflammation has also been implicated in gallbladder cancer, but there has been no data on the association between periodontal disease and gallbladder risk. Ours is the first study to report on such an association."
Dr. Wactawski-Wende and her colleagues also found a strong link between gum disease and breast cancer, lung cancer, and gallbladder cancer in the case of women who smoked. Especially significant, according to Dr. Nwizu, were the verdicts on gallbladder cancer and cancer of the oesophagus. Oesophageal cancer still has no known causes, so the researchers hope that this will be the first step in gaining a better understanding of its formation.