More evidence connects gum disease with cancer

gum disease cancer
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Data collected in a long-term health study reports a 24 per cent increase in the risk of cancer among participants with severe gum disease.

The US study—which is published in this month’s Journal of the National Cancer Institute—used data from comprehensive dental exams performed on 7,466 participants from four states, as part of their participation in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities study, who were then followed from the late 1990s until 2012. During the follow-up period, 1,648 new cancer cases were diagnosed.

The research team—a collaboration led by epidemiologists Dominique Michaud at Tufts University School of Medicine and Elizabeth Platz of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Kimmel Cancer Center—found a 24 per cent increase in the risk of developing cancer among participants with severe periodontitis, compared to those with mild to no periodontitis at baseline.

Among patients who had no teeth—which can be a sign of severe periodontitis—the increase in risk was 28 per cent. The highest risk was observed in cases of lung cancer, followed by colorectal cancer.

When the researchers did sub-group analyses, they found that participants with severe periodontal disease had more than double the risk of developing lung cancer, compared with no/mild periodontitis.

An 80 per cent increase in risk of colon cancer was observed for participants who were edentulous at baseline, which is consistent with prior findings, and among never smokers, a two-fold higher risk was noted for participants with severe periodontitis, compared to those who had no/mild periodontitis.

“This is the largest study addressing the association of gum disease and cancer risk using dental examinations to measure gum disease prior to cancer diagnosis,” Michaud said. “Additional research is needed to evaluate if periodontal disease prevention and treatment could help alleviate the incidence of cancer and reduce the number of deaths due to certain types of cancer.”

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