Data collected during a long-term health study provides additional evidence for a link between increased risk of cancer in individuals with advanced gum disease, according to a new collaborative study led by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center and Tufts University School of Medicine and Cancer Center.
Advanced gum disease, also called periodontitis, is caused by bacterial infection that damages the soft tissue and bone that support the teeth. Previous research has shown a link between periodontitis and increased cancer risk, although the exact mechanism connecting the two diseases is still uncertain.
The association is not strong enough to recommend screening for risk of particular cancers based on a periodontal disease diagnosis, said Dr. Elizabeth Platz, deputy chair of the department of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and co-leader of the Cancer Prevention and Control Program at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center. “But we see a modest to moderate risk increase in cancer that seems to be holding up across studies, so perhaps dentists should say to their patients that there are risks related to periodontal disease, and this is one of them.”