Periodontal disease, a disease of the gums that affects many Americans, increases one’s risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. Existing research has shown a link between periodontal disease and the development of oral, head and neck, pancreatic, and lung cancers, but researchers have recently conducted a study to see if any relationship between periodontal disease and breast cancer exist.
Jo L. Freudenheim, Ph.D., and his colleagues conducted a study involving 73,737 postmenopausal women who had no previous history of breast cancer. Nearly 26 percent of the participants reported having periodontal disease. After about six years, researchers conducted a follow-up and found that 2,124 women had breast cancer. Furthermore, researchers concluded that of all the women who participated in the study, the ones with periodontal disease had a 14 percent higher chance of developing breast cancer, as opposed to the participants who did not have periodontal disease.
What is interesting is the difference between one’s risk of developing breast cancer while considering their current and previous smoking habits, or lack thereof. Some of the women had previously been cigarette smokers. Of these participants, the ones who had quit smoking within the past 20 years, but had periodontal disease, had a 36 percent higher risk of developing breast cancer. Researchers also compared these results with the women who had periodontal disease and who had quit smoking at the beginning of this study, which concluded they had a 32 percent higher risk of developing breast cancer. Of the remaining participants who had periodontal disease, but either never smoked or had quit smoking 20 years ago, carried only a six or eight percent (respectively) increased risk of developing breast cancer.
Freudenheim explains that bacteria in the mouths of participants who recently quit smoking, compared to participants who quit years ago, are different, and even more so for non-smokers. Researchers believe there could be a link between the differences in bacteria that circulates within the body that is later found in breast tissue.
American Association for Cancer Research. (2015, December 21). Periodontal disease associated with increased breast cancer risk in postmenopausal women: History of smoking significantly affects the link. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 22, 2015 from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/12/151221071507.htm