According to the Centers for Disease and Control (CDC), gum disease, typically caused by infection and inflammation in the gums, affects over 70 percent of people aged 65 and above in the United States. Women are affected by periodontal disease (gum disease) more than men, about 38.4 percent.
Throughout a woman’s life, hormonal changes affect tissue and organs throughout the body. Fluctuations in hormonal levels occur most often during puberty, pregnancy, and menopause. During these times of fluctuation, the chance of periodontal disease and cancer may increase.
Studies have shown that women are at increased risk for oral cancer and periodontal disease (gum disease). Gum disease and cancer are extremely dangerous, as these diseases manifest themselves in various ways. Without knowing the signs – and often symptoms do not present themselves right away – these conditions are sometimes unnoticeable without the help of a professional.
As past research has found links between gum disease and various types of cancer, research and studies have continued to prove this to be true. To better understand this correlation between periodontal disease and the risk of women developing cancer, the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study looked for the links between overall health, diet, lifestyle, genetic factors, and health problems such as cancer and gum disease.
The WHI had female participants fill out questionnaires over a six to eight-year period, and results concluded that out of those women who revealed to have gum disease, 7,149 of them had been diagnosed with a form of cancer.
Results showed that women who are diagnosed with periodontal disease, in fact, do have a higher risk of developing various types of cancer, such as esophageal, breast, oral, and gallbladder cancer. To be exact, women with gum disease are at triple the risk of developing cancer, compared to women without oral health problems. Esophageal cancer was the type most frequently associated with gum disease.
Researchers and doctors, found that the answer to the link between cancer and gum disease may be due to bacteria and other pathogens from the mouth making their way into the bloodstream through saliva or diseased gum tissue. The bacteria or pathogens gain easy access to internal areas of the body, causing the site to be at more risk for cancer. If left untreated, cancer can then spread to other areas of the body, manifesting in different ways.
The answers recorded during the WHI were self-reported by the women themselves, so the accuracy of numbers may not be exact. Also, the direct link between periodontal disease and various types of cancer has yet to be completely understood, however studies like this shed light on possible connections.
Oral hygiene is extremely important to your overall health. Not visiting your dentist will end up costing you more in the long run, both health-wise and financially. Early detection and accurate diagnosis will save your life. Your mouth can reveal other health complications, such as heart disease, diabetes, and oral cancer.
Even though a visit to the dentist every six months may not be something that you and your family look forward to, regular dental checkups are vitally important, as your dentist is highly trained to detect any abnormalities, and most importantly, finding signs and symptoms of gum disease and oral cancer. Your dentist can help further complications from happening, or spreading to other areas in your body.