Previous studies have shown a possible link between gum disease and an increased risk of developing heart disease. Now scientists have discovered that gum disease, once thought of as a fairly benign condition, can also increase your risk of certain types of cancer!
That's the findings of a recent study published in the prestigious medical journal Lancet Oncology. In the study, researchers tracked male health professionals for nearly two decades. All of the health professionals had a history of gum disease. By the end of the study, researchers found that the health professionals had a 14 percent overall greater risk of developing cancer compared to men who do not have gum disease.
According to lead researcher Dr. Dominique Michaud of the Imperial College London, "After controlling for smoking and other risk factors, periodontal disease was significantly associated with an increased risk of lung, kidney, pancreatic and hematological (blood) cancers." In addition, this higher than normal risk factor was true even among health professionals in the study who never smoked. Smoking can cause gum disease and is, of course, another significant risk factor for cancer.
Also known as periodontal disease, gum disease is caused by infection of the tissues surrounding and supporting the teeth. Previous research has shown that people with gum disease not only have a higher risk of developing heart disease, but possibly diabetes, as well.
Prior to this most recent study, researchers have known that people with gum disease also show a higher level of inflammation in their blood. Inflammation is now well-known to be a risk factor for certain types of cancer (as well as heart, disease, diabetes, and many other health conditions.) But until the Lancet Oncology study, many researchers speculated that whatever causes inflammation in the body might also cause gum disease and cancer independently of each other.
The aim of the study conducted by Dr. Michaud and his colleagues was to determine whether or not gum disease by itself increases the risk of cancer. In order to conduct their study, they used data from a previous large study of male Health Experts and other health professionals aged 40 to 75. That study began in 1986 at Harvard University. In it, nearly 50,000 men filled out health surveys and were followed for more than 17 years. The survey included information on gum disease and bone loss, as well as various other criteria such as their number of teeth and tooth loss.
Over 5,700 of the health professionals developed cancer during the time that they were tracked, not including cases of non-melanoma skin cancers and non-aggressive prostate cancer. Dr. Michaud and his team found that men who had gum disease had 14 percent higher cancer risk compared to those who did not. Additionally, their risks were higher depending on the type of cancer.
Among the findings of Dr. Michaud and his team were that men with a history of gum disease had a:
In addition, men who had who had fewer than the normal number of teeth (0 to 16) at the start of the study had a 70 percent higher risk of lung cancer compared with individuals with more normal teeth numbers (25 to 32).
Self-Care Tips for Preventing and Reversing Gum Disease
Based on the above findings, you can see why it is important that you take care of your teeth and gums. Here are some self-care steps you can use to do so:
Despite the findings of Dr. Michaud and his team, it remains to be seen if gum disease is in fact a definite risk factor for developing cancer. Even so, when it comes to your health, the adage "better safe than sorry" is wise advice. Therefore, take care of the health of your gums and teeth, and be willing to consult with both your physician and your dentist so that both of them can support you on your journey to achieving optimal health.