Gum Disease (Gingivitis) and Breast Cancer Risk


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Gum disease, also known as gingivitis, or periodontal disease, has been closely linked to an increased risk of heart disease.  Now, a newly published study from the renowned Karolinksa Institute in Sweden suggests that the risk of developing breast cancer may also be increased by chronic gum disease.  The results of this clinical research study appear in the current issue of Breast Cancer Research & Treatment.

In this prospective clinical research study, 3,273 women between the ages of 30 and 40 years were evaluated between 1985 and 2001.  Young women in this study who had documented chronic gum disease, or who had lost one or more molars due to gum disease, were more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer when compared to women without periodontal disease (even after adjusting for known breast cancer risk factors in these young, healthy women).

Previous research has linked periodontal gum disease with an increased risk of other cancers, including cancers of the uterus, colon, rectum, prostate and pancreas.  However, up until now, there has been hardly any available research data linking gingivitis, or tooth loss due to periodontal disease, to breast cancer.

The exact mechanism whereby chronic gum disease increases cancer risk is unknown at this time.  (Some experts have proposed that bacteria from chronically inflamed gums may enter into the bloodstream, and induce an inflammatory response that, in turn, causes cancer formation.)  Irrespective of the true mechanism, however, certain cancers appear to be more common in people with chronic gum disease, even after adjusting for other known cancer risk factors.

If you experience red, swollen, sore, or bleeding gums, or premature tooth loss (or if your gums are retracting away from your teeth), then you may have periodontal disease (gingivitis).  Based upon recent research findings, this condition may not only increase your risk of heart disease, peripheral artery disease, stroke, and diabetes, but also cancer as well.  (Recent research has also linked periodontal disease in pregnant women with an increased risk of premature birth of their babies.)   If you notice any of these signs of periodontal disease, then please make an appointment to see your dentist for a complete check-up.


For a deeper discussion of known cancer risks, and evidence-based strategies to reduce your risk of developing cancer, order your copy of my new book, A Cancer Prevention Guide for the Human Race,” from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, Vroman’s Bookstore, and other fine bookstores! 


Disclaimer: As always, my advice to readers is to seek the advice of your physician before making any significant changes in medications, diet, or level of physical activity

Dr. Wascher is an oncologic surgeon, a professor of surgery, a cancer researcher, an oncology consultant, and a widely published author

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