Gum disease may up cancer risk in post-menopausal women

New York: Women in the post-menopausal phase with a history of gum disease may be at higher risk of developing several types of cancer, particularly in the gallbladder and esophagus, according to a study.

The findings showed that women with a history of gum disease had a 14 per cent increased risk of overall cancer.

“There is increasing evidence that periodontal disease may be linked to an increased cancer risk,” said lead author Ngozi Nwizu, Assistant Professor at the University of Texas at Houston.

“For most types of cancers, the process of carcinogenesis usually occurs over many years. So, the adverse effects of periodontal disease are more likely to be seen among post-menopausal women, simply because of their older age,” Nwizu added in the paper published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

The risk associated with periodontal disease was the highest for esophageal cancer and gallbladder, the researchers reported.

“The esophagus is in close proximity to the oral cavity and so periodontal pathogens may more easily gain access to and infect the esophageal mucosa and promote cancer risk at that site,” explained Jean Wactawski-Wende, Dean at the University at Buffalo.

Moreover, associations were observed for breast, lung and melanoma skin cancers. Stomach cancer was borderline, the researchers noted.

“Certain periodontal bacteria have been shown to promote inflammation even in tiny amounts, and these bacteria have been isolated from many organ systems and some cancers including esophageal cancers. It is important to establish if periodontal disease is an important risk of esophageal cancer, so that appropriate preventive measures can be promoted,” Nwizu said

For the study, the team included 65,869 post-menopausal women in the US with an average age of 68.

Periodontal disease also was associated with total cancer risk among former and current smokers, the study showed.