People who suffer from gum disease have a higher risk of developing certain forms of cancer, a study suggests.
Published in the journal Gut, researchers found that a history of periodontal disease is linked to an increased risk of oesophageal and gastric cancer.
This risk of cancer was also higher among those who have previously lost teeth.
The team – from the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health – carried out the study across decades of patient follow ups.
They assessed dental measures, demographics, lifestyle, and diet. Self-reported cancer diagnosis was confirmed after reviewing medical records.
Spike in risk
The results revealed that during 22 to 28 years of follow-up analysed, there were a total of 199 cases of oesophageal cancer and 238 cases of gastric cancer.
And a history of gum disease was linked with a 43% increased risk of oesophageal cancer and and 52% increased risk of gastric cancer.
Additionally, those who had lost two or more teeth had a higher risk compared to those with no tooth loss (42% and 33% respectively).
The researchers concluded: ‘Together, this data supports the importance of oral microbiome in oesophageal and gastric cancer. Further prospective studies that directly assess oral microbiome are warranted to identify specific oral bacteria responsible for this relationship.
‘The additional findings may serve as readily accessible, non-invasive biomarkers and help identify individuals at high risk for these cancers.’
Missed cancer screenings
This comes as dentists voice concerns over missed oral cancer screenings as a result of COVID-19.
Following a survey carried out by the British Association of Private Dentistry (BAPD), results revealed 676 out of 755 participants reported referral problems from primary to secondary care since practices reopened their doors on 8 June 2020.
Jason Smithson, a co-founder of the group, believes this is down to a number of reasons
‘The comments would suggest a multifactorial problem; however, there would seem to be some common themes,’ he said.
‘Clearly, this is a serious problem for the profession.’
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