Gum disease increases women’s risk of breast cancer

  • October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
  • Women with severe gum disease have two to three times higher odds of developing breast cancer.
  • Postmenopausal women with gum disease are more likely to develop breast cancer than postmenopausal women who didn’t have gum disease.
  • The bacteria that causes inflammation in the mouth may enter the circulatory system through the gums which then may affect breast tissue.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer that affects women around the world. The World Health Organization reports that there are about 1.7 million new cases and 522,000 deaths from breast cancer each year.

What are the risk factors of breast cancer?

The main factors that influence someone’s risk include being a woman and getting older. Most breast cancers are found in women who are 50 years old or older. Genetics and family history of breast cancer also put one at higher risk. While these are factors women can’t control, there are others that they can,like exercise, healthy diet and good oral hygiene.

What is the link between gum disease and breast cancer?

A 2017 study showed that women with periodontitis (advanced from of gum disease) had two to three times higher odds of breast cancer than women without periodontitis. Researchers suggest that the bacteria that causes inflammation in the mouth may enter the circulatory system through the gums which then may affect breast tissue.

Another research revealed that postmenopausal women with gum disease were more likely to develop breast cancer than postmenopausal women who didn’t have gum disease. If the women had a history of smoking, the risk of breast cancer was even higher.

What is gum disease?

Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, is a chronic inflammatory disease that affects the gums and bones supporting the teeth. It is caused by a sticky film of bacteria called plaque that constantly forms on the teeth and triggers inflammation in the gums.

The early stage of gum disease is called gingivitis. It is usually painless, and a lot of people don’t know they have it. Common warning signs include red, swollen gums that bleed easily.Others may experience persistent bad breath, feel change in the way their teeth fit together when they bite or have gums that have pulled away from the teeth. Left untreated, gum disease can lead to tooth loss.

How can we prevent gum disease?

It is possible to have gum disease without pain or warning signs. Regular dental checkups and dental cleanings are very important in keeping your teeth and gums in check. Your dentist will be able to identify symptoms of gum disease and offer treatment if necessary.

Good oral hygiene is important in maintaining your oral health. Brush twice daily with a fluoride toothpaste and floss once a day. Know your risk factors. Smoking, genetics and chronic conditions like diabetes may heighten your risk.

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