Gum Disease Tied to Cancer Risk in Older Women

The increased risk from periodontal disease was highest for esophageal and gallbladder cancers, with increased risk also for cancers of the breast and lung and for melanoma of the skin. But gum disease was not associated with cancers of the pancreas, liver or lower digestive tract.

Although the exact mechanism is unknown, gum pathogens could reach sites in the body through swallowed saliva, causing inflammation in other organs, the authors suggest.

“We know that treating gum disease prevents tooth loss,” said the senior author, Jean Wactawski-Wende, a professor of epidemiology at the University at Buffalo. “It could also be helpful in managing cancer and other systemic diseases. That’s a simple public health message.”

By Nicholas Bakalar