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After analyzing the numbers given by the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study, researchers have come to the conclusion that breast cancer risk could be increased by gum disease. The study encompassed over 73.000 women after their menopause had set in and was conducted since 1991, aided by extensive federal funding.
Out of this number, almost 25% of them had been suffering from chronic gum inflammations or infections, known as periodontal disease. After a follow-up period of 6.5 years had passed, over 2.000 women were diagnosed with breast cancer, making scientists claim that gum disease increases the risk of having said cancer by roughly 14%.
Keep in mind that this type of result is more akin to correlation instead of causation, mainly due to the fact that researchers currently do not know the exact link between breast cancer and gum disease. A similar alleged link has already been made between gum disease and various illnesses like diabetes, cardiovascular dysfunctions and other types of cancer. This method of correlation is merely the beginning of a much larger process of finding the exact culprit behind the cause.
After adding risk factors such as unhealthy lifestyle, smoking, and alcohol use, the total risk percentage given by gum disease was lower to 11%. Even if this number is relatively low, it still adds up to other elements, increasing the probability that a postmenopausal woman will suffer from the dreaded illness known as breast cancer.
In regards to periodontal diseases, smoking was the most conclusive factor studied. In women who were currently smoking while having gum disease had a breast cancer risk increase of 32% while women who never smoked while suffering from periodontal disease had only a mere 6% increase. This is more than likely due to the fact that through infections or inflammations, the gum starts to present laceration, giving bacteria the perfect entryway into the bloodstream.
These bacteria will eventually reach vulnerable tissue and cause cancer. The vulnerability of said tissue is caused by the modifications in sex hormone levels after menopause. The concept of analyzing the “microbiome” located in the patient’s mouth and gut is relatively new. Both of these areas are full of both good bacteria, that aid the human body in digestion or other processes, as well as bad ones that get targeted by the immune system. But the analysis and eventual modification of this microbiome have to be done with extreme precaution in order to not disrupt the balance between the aforementioned good and bad bacteria.
Even if breast cancer risk could be increased by gum disease, the findings of the study are still in their early stages. But the advice of maintaining a good dental health, as well as going to the dentist regularly for check-ups, especially if you are prone to gum bleeding, should not be discredited in any way. If the link is proven to be completely correct, the odds of more people caring for their teeth, as well as their health, grow substantially.