Brushing your teeth may prevent a lot more than just teeth cavities. Researchers have found a link between gum disease and a significantly increased risk of cancer, in both smokers and non-smokers.
A team from Imperial College London analyzed data from more than 48,000 men in the United States, which showed that the cancer risk among non-smokers with a history of gum disease was 21 percent higher. They were also found to have a 35 percent greater risk of blood cancers.
The researchers stressed that the findings need to be confirmed and explored by additional research, but it is not the first time that periodontal disease has been associated with other serious illness. Previous research suggested that people with infected gums may be more prone to heart disease.
Including smokers, the overall increased risk for those with a history of gum disease was found to be 14 percent, which rises to around 50 percent for lung, kidney and pancreatic cancers.
Pancreatic cancer strikes more than 33,000 Americans each year and kills more than 30,000, making it the fourth-leading cause of cancer death.
Although the research team is unsure of the exact reason for the link, they suggested that “gum disease might be a marker of a susceptible immune system or might directly affect cancer risk”.
Dr Dominique Michaud from Imperial College London, who led the investigation, wrote in the Lancet Oncology journal: “Gum disease was associated with a small, but significant, increase in overall cancer risk, which persisted in never-smokers.”
A new study out of London found male subjects with a history of gum disease had a 14-percent higher risk for cancer overall. Las Vegas oncologist Ann Wierman says there’s still a lot to learn about the relationship between cancer and gum disease, although there’s little doubt that one exists.
Scientists have previously found that gum disease could also lead to an increased risk of heart disease.