Gum Disease Possibly Linked to Breast Cancer

A new study has found yet another link between oral health and a serious health condition. The study, which was conducted at the University at Buffalo’s School of Public Health and Health Professions in New York, has concluded that gum disease may increase the risk for breast cancer in postmenopausal women.

“These findings are useful in providing new insight into what causes breast cancer,” stated Jo Freudenheim, lead author and professor of epidemiology. “There is good evidence, though, that good dental care is important in any case and that treatment of periodontal disease is important for the health of the mouth,” she added.

While the research did not prove a cause-and-effect link between gum disease and breast cancer, evidence was found that linked the two. Several other studies have also found an association between gum disease and other chronic conditions, such as stroke, heart disease, and other cancers.  The report, recently published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, involved the collection and analysis of data on nearly 74,000 postmenopausal women who took part in the Women’s Health Initiative study. According to a recent article from U.S. News, none of the women had a history of breast cancer, however after an average follow-up of nearly seven years, more than 2,000 women were diagnosed with breast cancer. Researchers also found that women who smoked cigarettes at the time of the study appeared to have a 32% higher risk for breast cancer if they had gum disease.

While researchers felt confident concluding there is a link, other industry experts feel more research is needed. Dr. Stephanie Bernik, chief of surgical oncology at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, believes that a direct link between gum disease and an increased risk of breast cancer hasn’t been proven.

“Women with gum disease may lead lives that are less healthy overall, such as eating poorly, not exercising and drinking excessively,” Bernik said.

“We have to be cautious about putting too much emphasis on this study, but look at it in the context of overall health,” said Dr. Leonard Lichtenfeld, deputy chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society. “Gum disease might be a sign of overall poor health and not the specific cause of breast cancer,” he added.

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