Women with gum disease showed a 14 percent overall increased risk for breast cancer, compared to those without gum disease. That increased risk seemed to leap to over 30 percent if they also smoked or had smoked in the last 20 years, according to researchers.
Professor of epidemiology at the University at Buffalo’s School of Public Health and Health Professions in New York, lead author Jo Freudenheim, said that these findings are useful in supplying new insight into the causes of breast cancer.
She added that there is good evidence that good dental care is important anyways and that periodontal disease treatment is vital for health of the mouth.
However, more study is needed before there is sufficient evidence to state that gum disease causes breast cancer or other diseases, according to Freudenheim. This study did not give evidence of a cause-and-effect link between the two, a point highlighted by many experts not involved with the study.
Several studies have found a link between gum disease and other chronic diseases, including heart attack, stroke and other diseases, Freudenheim stated.
She added that there is a lot to learn about why we see these links. In particular, we do not yet know if treating the gum disease would lower the risk of these other diseases.
The report was published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention on December 21.
An orthodontist in Garden City, New York, Dr. Ashish Sahasra, stated that this is going to open many people’s eyes to the possible link between gum disease and break cancer.
He added that periodontal disease can cause a lot of health problems. Gum disease is very common, and often goes misdiagnosed or undiagnosed and a lot of people do not pay attention to it, but it is a serious disease that has to be treated immediately.
For the study, Freudenheim and colleagues gathered data on almost 74,000 postmenopausal women who participated in the Women’s Health Initiative study. None of the women participating in the study had a history of breast cancer. Following an average follow-up of nearly seven years, over 2,000 women were diagnosed with breast cancer.
The researchers discovered that women who were smoking at the time of the study showed a 32 percent higher risk of breast cancer if they had gum disease, but the connection was not statistically significant, Freudenheim stated, due to the fact that there were not many current smokers among the women in the study. Among the participating women who had quit smoking sometime during the past 20 years, those with gum disease appeared to have a 36 percent higher risk of breast cancer.
Additionally, women who had never smoked but had gum disease appeared to have a 6 percent higher risk of developing breast cancer, and those who had quit over 20 years before and had gum disease had an 8 percent higher risk, the study suggested.
More study has to be done to see if inflammatory factors like gum disease play a part in the development of breast cancer.