According to researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, people with a history of gum disease also have a higher risk of developing stomach and esophageal cancer.
Based on two large studies, researchers found that those with gum disease had a 43% higher risk of developing esophageal cancer and a 52% higher chance of developing stomach cancer.
Researchers examined the relationship between gum disease and cancer risk in nearly 150,000 people from two separate studies.
Measurements of dentistry, demographics, lifestyles and diets were assessed through a set of questionnaires.
After reviewing medical records, the team found 199 cases of esophageal cancer and 238 cases of stomach cancer during the study’s follow-up period.
Among those with a history of gum disease, losing one or more teeth was associated with a 59% increased risk of esophageal cancer, compared to those without a history of the disease.
The researchers hypothesized that exposure to oral bacteria and substances derived from those bacteria may be responsible for the increased risk.
Taken together, these data support the importance of the oral microbiome in oesophageal and gastric cancer.
Further future studies assessing the oral microbiome directly are warranted to identify specific oral bacteria responsible for this relationship.
Additional findings may serve as accessible non-invasive biomarkers and help identify individuals at risk for these cancers.
The study adds to a body of evidence suggesting that periodontitis-causing bacteria is linked to disease risk.
But given that the study was observational, no causal effect could be identified.
However, the study suggests that clinicians can include an oral health examination when assessing a patient’s risk of developing cancer in the future.
Gum disease, or periodontitis, is a severe infection of the gums, characterized by painful symptoms that can make it difficult to speak, in extreme cases.
The progressive condition, which begins with gingivitis, usually progresses to more serious stages if left untreated.