Gum disease, often caused by poor oral hygiene, can increase the risk of cancer in older women.
A new study published in the journal of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention says that a history of the disease is associated with a 14 per cent risk of developing any cancer in post-menopausal women.
The researchers noted that the strongest association was for cancer of the oesophagus, which was over three times more likely to develop in women with gum disease than those who did not suffer from the condition.
Lung, gallbladder, breast and melanoma cancers were also associated with significantly higher risk.
“This association may be due to the fact that oral pathogens could potentially be carried through saliva, dental plaque and affected tissues by the blood to other body sites where they contribute to the growth of cancerous cells,” said Dr Wactawski-Wende, lead author of the study from the Department of Epidemiology and Environmental Health at the State University of New York.
Gum disease – known medically as Periodontitis – usually results from poor oral care and can be prevented by daily brushing and flossing of teeth.
Special dental cleaning performed regularly by dentists is also recommended.
Initial symptoms of the disease include red and swollen gums as well as gums that bleed after brushing or flossing teeth.
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