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Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Gum Disease Linked to Some Cancers

Dr. Vincent Wan


Cleaning your teeth could be the difference between developing cancer or not.  Having gum disease has been linked to developing certain cancers.  Something as simple as brushing and flossing not only prevents cavities and gum problems but could reduce your risk of cancer.

There is a strong association between gum disease and pancreatic cancer.  The link has been established with the more serious form of gum disease, periodontitis.  Although there is no link with the less serious form of gum disease, gingivitis, untreated gingivitis can lead to periodontitis.

Research from Havard found men with gum disease had an increased risk of developing pancreatic cancer compared to men who never had gum disease in their lives.  They found that men with recent tooth loss had the greatest risk of pancreatic cancer but found no link between tooth decay and pancreatic cancer.

Researchers found that people with gum disease have high levels of carcinogenic compounds called nitrosamines in their mouths.  They think these nitrosamines may interact with the digestive chemicals in the digestive tract to create a favourable environment for cancer formation in the pancreas.

It is not understood well whether gum disease bacteria is a cause of pancreatic cancer or whether pancreatic cancer results in gum disease.  All that we know is there is a significant link between gum disease and pancreatic cancer.

The research also found an increased risk of lung, kidney and white blood cell cancers in men with gum disease.  More research needs to be done to find further information.

Separate research on women also found an increased risk of developing any cancer if they had a history of gum disease.  Oesophageal, lung, gallbladder, breast and skin cancers had the greatest association with gum disease in women.

Oesophageal cancer was the most frequently reported in women.  It is thought that due to the closeness of the oesophagus to the mouth, gum disease pathogens may easily travel between both sites and help cause cancer formation.