Researchers collected data on around 74,000 postmenopausal women for this study. None of the women had a history of breast cancer when the study began, but during a follow up after seven years, 2,000 women had developed breast cancer. Women who had taken up smoking during the study were at a 32% higher risk of developing breast cancer, but it is important to mention that there were not many current smokers in the study (most had quit). Women who had quit smoking within the past 20 years but had gum disease were at a 36% higher risk of developing breast cancer, and women with gum disease who had quit more than 20 years before the study were still at an 8% increased risk. Even among non-smokers with gum disease were at a 6% increased risk of developing breast cancer.
The Cause and Prevention
Despite all of these numbers, the researchers have not found an exact connection between gum disease and breast cancer. Gum disease typically occurs after bacteria has built up plaque on your teeth. If left unchecked, this plaque and bacteria can infect the gums, causing inflammation and bleeding that leads to teeth and bone loss over time. The researchers are looking to whether inflammation is the link between gum disease and breast cancer. Bacteria can also travel throughout the body, and some of them have been shown to reduce the body’s response to early-stage cancer. Gum disease is also typically linked with risky behavior such as smoking, drinking, and eating unhealthy foods, which may also serve as a link between the two diseases. You can protect yourself from gum disease by eating and drinking healthily, avoiding smoking, and brushing and flossing at least twice per day followed by a mouthwash rinse. Regularly visiting a dentist is also key. If you live in the Philadelphia area and have any questions about gum disease, or would like to schedule an appointment at Dental Excellence of Blue Bell, please give us a call at (610) 272-0828.