As we age, we realize our bodies just aren’t what they used to be. We may be exposed to dangerous elements in our environments that are not beneficial to our health, such as secondhand smoke and car exhaust. But, we can control other elements to keep ourselves in optimum health. This includes the obvious: trying to make healthier food choices and getting more exercise, but are you considering how oral health can also effect overall health? A new study reveals that there is a link between gum disease and increased risk of cancer in aging women. Higher numbers of aging women are showing a growing risk of periodontal related cancers.


History of Gum Disease Increases Cancer Risk in Older Women

Postmenopausal women who have a history of gum disease also have a higher risk of cancer, according to a new study of more than 65,000 women by researchers at the University at Buffalo (UB). “This study is the first national study focused on women, particularly older women,” said Jean Wactawski-Wende, the study’s senior author.

As part of a follow-up health questionnaire, participants were asked if a dentist or dental hygienist ever told them that they had periodontal or gum disease. Women who reported a history of gum disease had a 14 percent increased risk of overall cancer. Of the 7,149 cancers that occurred in the study participants, the majority, or 2,416, were breast cancer. The risk associated with periodontal disease was highest for esophageal cancer, the researchers reported. Gallbladder cancer risk also was high in women who reported a history of gum disease.

“Esophageal cancer ranks among the most deadly cancers and its etiology is not well known, but chronic inflammation has been implicated,”  said the paper’s first author, Ngozi Nwizu, who also explained that certain periodontal bacteria have been shown to promote inflammation even in tiny amounts.

Getting Ahead of the Game

It’s important to be diligent in your home care and to maintain regular dental visits. At C R Dental Group, located in Dallas, Texas, Dr. James Reisman and Dr. Jordana Contrucci, and the knowledgeable staff of hygienists are well trained in identifying and treating all stages of gum disease. The key is to be proactive, rather than reactive. Don’t wait until you are older to start taking care of yourself. The damages are harder to reverse and can be extremely more costly.