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.
The study is the first national study of its kind involving U.S. women, and the first to focus specifically on older women. It’s also the first study to find an association between periodontal disease and gallbladder cancer risk in women or men.
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. The esophagus is in close proximity to the oral cavity, and so periodontal pathogens may more easily gain access to and infect the esophageal mucosa and promote cancer risk at that site.
Gallbladder cancer risk also was high in women who reported a history of gum disease. Chronic inflammation has also been implicated in gallbladder cancer, but there has been no data on the association between periodontal disease and gallbladder risk.
Periodontal disease also was associated with total cancer risk among former and current smokers.
The findings for this particular age group are significant because they offer a window into disease in a population of Americans that continues to increase as people live longer lives.
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