Gum disease, especially in smokers, increases the risk of breast cancer, according to new research.
Women who report having periodontal disease are at greater risk for breast cancer, especially if they smoke or recently quit smoking, a new study reports.
“We have seen associations between periodontal disease and chronic diseases including stroke and heart attacks. Our hypothesis was that it would also be associated with breast cancer,” says Jo Freudenheim, professor and interim chair of the epidemiology and environmental health department at the University at Buffalo.
“We thought that periodontal bacteria—either the bacteria themselves or the inflammation that’s part of having periodontal disease—has an effect on other parts of the body, including breast tissue. We know there are bacteria in breast tissue and we know there’s bacteria in mother’s milk. Women who had periodontal disease had a small increase in the risk of breast cancer overall,” she says.
For a study published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, researchers examined self-reported data from more than 73,000 postmenopausal participants in the Women’s Health Initiative, a federally funded long-term study that started in 1991. The women were followed to determine who was diagnosed with breast cancer. Among women who were smokers or who had quit smoking in the previous 20 years, those with periodontal disease had a 36 percent higher risk of breast cancer.
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