Periodontal disease has been found to be associated with an increased risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women. According to a new study published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, a journal of the American Association of Cancer research, postmenopausal women with periodontal disease, were more likely to develop breast cancer than women without periodontal disease. Periodontal disease is a dental disease characterized by red and bleeding gums and loss of the connective tissue and bone that support teeth. When periodontal disease progresses it results in tooth loss.
The study monitored 73,737 postmenopausal women enrolled in the Women's Health Initiative Observational Study. None of the patients previously had breast cancer. Periodontal disease was reported in 26% of the women. After a 6.7 year follow up, the risk of breast cancer was 14% higher in women who had periodontal disease. Among women who had quit smoking in the past 20 years and had periodontal disease, there was a 36% higher risk of breast cancer.
There are several suspected links between periodontal disease and breast cancer. As with diabetes and cardiovascular disease, there is a level of systemic inflammation from periodontal disease that can cause effects all over the body. Another possibility is that bacteria from the mouth enter the bloodstream and affect the breast tissue. More research is needed to determine the exact links, but this study further raises awareness to the importance of preventing and treating periodontal disease.