Want to know if you’re at risk for getting cancer? Your dentist may be able to tell you.
I showed you a few weeks ago how a new study can detect breast cancer using your saliva. This test isn’t available yet. But new information says your dentist might be able to help you evaluate your risk for cancer right now.
A study conducted with nearly 50,000 people over 17 years found a connection between gum disease and many kinds of cancers. This shouldn’t surprise you. Gum disease means inflammation, and inflammation is at the core of many chronic illnesses, including cancer.
For this study, researchers collected questionnaires from the participants every four years. They asked about their general health, diets, and history of smoking. They also asked about any bone loss, including loss of teeth. Then the researchers asked about any new diagnosis of cancer.
Colon cancer topped the list of cancers associated with gum inflammation. The next highest were melanoma (skin), lung, bladder, and advanced prostate cancer. Study participants who had gum disease were 14% more likely to get some form of cancer than those with healthy gums. Fourteen percent may seem like a rather small risk. But it’s not when you realize it’s completely preventable.
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The researchers believe that gum disease is either a sign of a suppressed immune system – which can lead to cancer – or a direct cause-and-effect connection to inflammation. It doesn’t matter which it is. You can reduce your risk for getting any cancers just by improving your gums. Frankly, I believe that inflammation is the primary culprit.
I’ve talked about this before at length in my article, “The new way to stop gums from bleeding and save your teeth” (you can read the entire article, which is from the September 2007 issue, on my website). The key is daily cleaning, flossing or proxi-brush, and applying a strong probiotic to your gums every night. This method can save your teeth, further reducing your risk for lung cancer by a whopping 70% – another surprising finding from this study.
Your voice of reason in Women's Health,
Dr. Janet Zand
Michaud, D.S., et al, “Periodontal disease, tooth loss, and cancer risk in male health professionals: a prospective cohort study”, The Lancet Oncology, 2008.