3 Aug 2017

Unhealthy gums could put older women at significantly higher risk of developing many forms of deadly cancer, according to the findings of a ground-breaking new study.

The research, which looked at data from 65,000 post-menopausal women between the ages of 54 and 86, found those with a history of gum disease were 14% more likely to develop cancer.

Of these, a one in three developed breast cancer while there was also a highly-increased risk of lung cancer, oesophageal, gall bladder and skin cancers. 

In response, leading charity, the Oral Health Foundation is encouraging women to ensure they pay close attention to their gum health to reduce their risk of developing these types of cancer.

Speaking on this important new research, Dr Nigel Carter OBE, CEO of the Oral Health Foundation said: "We have known for some time that there are close links between oral health and systemic disease, such as heart disease and diabetes, but this new study is hugely significant as it could help many millions of women help reduce their risk of cancer.

"We are encouraging post-menopausal women to be alert to the early signs of gum disease; which include red inflamed gums, bleeding when brushing your teeth and persistent bad breath, and ensure that you visit your dentist as soon as possible to get checked out and avoid any further problems. 

"Avoiding gum disease can be as simple as brushing your teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste, using interdental brushes daily and regular visits to the dentist. While gum disease can be treated very effectively, the best approach is certainly prevention and making sure we do not fall foul of it at all.

"We welcome more research on this topic, as a greater understanding could be a game-changer in helping women avoid many types of cancer."

The findings, published in the journal of ‘Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention', were irrespective of smoking habits and concluded that gum disease leaves other parts of the body ‘vulnerable'.

Several significant changes occur in the body during the menopause and many have resulting symptoms which can have a substantial impact on a woman's day-to-day life, so much so that oral health can at times feel like the least of their worries.

Karen Coates, Oral Health Educator and Advisor for the Oral Health Foundation, added: "Falling oestrogen levels throughout menopause can cause numerous health issues, such as loss of bone density, leading to osteoporosis. At the same time, changes in oral health also are common as teeth and gums become more susceptible to disease, resulting in heightened risk of inflammation, bleeding, pain, and ultimately, loose or missing teeth."

"Maintaining good oral hygiene throughout our lives is the best way to prevent the development of many oral health problems. It is important that we do not overlook the health of our mouth and remember, if you are in pain or discomfort please visit a dental professional. A visit to a dental hygienist or dental therapist could really help you and provide you with great advice too."