A recent study has shown that postmenopausal women who suffer from periodontal disease have a significantly increased risk of developing breast cancer.
The study followed 73,737 postmenopausal women with no history of breast cancer for an average period of six and a half years; approximately one quarter of them had reported periodontal disease. During this time around 2,100 of the women were diagnosed with breast cancer.
The researchers calculated a 14 percent higher risk of breast cancer for those with gum disease compared to those without. The risk was greatest among former smokers who had quit with the past 20 years.
However, the authors have cautioned that from the study we cannot assume that one disease is causing the other. “We don’t know if it’s causal, we need to keep that in mind,” said lead author Dr Jo Freudenheim, from the Department of Epidemiology and Environmental Health at the State University of New York at Buffalo.
“It could be that periodontal disease means there’s kind of a general inflammation in the body,” Dr Freudenheim said. “Inflammation is related to a number of cancers and stroke and heart disease, so it could be that chronic inflammation is causing both.”
Further research into periodontal disease and its link to breast cancer in other populations will be needed before any firm conclusions can be drawn.
Dr Nigel Carter OBE, Chief Executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, commented: "The health risks associated with gum disease are definitely not limited to the mouth, there is clear evidence that it can lead to some extremely serious health problems.
"This problem is made even worse due to the prevalence of gum disease; it is estimated that it affects half of all adults in the UK and up to 15% of adults are estimated to have severe periodontitis”.
"If you feel you have gum disease then you should visit you dentists straight away for a thorough check-up of your teeth and gums.
“Catching gum disease early is the best way to ensure that it is treated effectively."