In Theresa Pablos’s DrBicuspid.com article, “Periodontal disease linked to increased cancer risk”, she delves into new research on how periodontal disease affects older women. Specifically, she highlights a new study that was published in the Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention (August 1, 2017), which is a journal that is part of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR). Surprisingly, this was the first national study that focused on the overall cancer risk among older women (i.e., postmenopausal women
between the ages 50 and 79) with periodontal disease. The study utilized data compiled by the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study (WHI-OS), an ongoing investigation that spans several years to review the morbidity and mortality risk factors of older women.
From analyzing the data evidence, the authors concluded that older women that have periodontal disease have a 14% increased risk of developing any type of cancer. The study also found that women with periodontal disease are three times more likely to develop esophageal cancer, and have a significant increased risk of developing melanoma and gallbladder, lung, and breast cancers. This was the first study to tie periodontal disease to gallbladder cancer in this population. The authors did look at the usual cancer variables (i.e., smoking status, alcohol intake, diabetes history, etc.) to see if they affected the data in any way, and concluded it did not.
This study sheds new light on an area of cancer research that has not been studied extensively. Previous research did link periodontal disease to cancer, but did not test on a national level and did not specifically focus on older women. Considering that the world population is living longer, and the older age groups are getting bigger, the study’s authors felt it was an ideal time to expand on the investigation of periodontal disease and cancer risk. Although this study has provided more evidence about the links between periodontal disease and cancer, the need for further investigation and research is apparent. However, the authors believe the study is helping to shape cancer prevention strategies for the future, while also stressing the importance of maintaining good oral hygiene.