Gum disease linked to 14% higher cancer risk in men

Having gum disease could increase a man's risk of developing cancer by 14 per cent, UK research suggests.

A group of 48,375 men, aged 40-75, completed health questionnaires at baseline and every two years thereafter for a total follow-up time of 18 years.

They were asked if they had gum disease, whether or not they had lost any teeth, and about any new diagnosis of cancer, along with smoking status, food intake and their height and weight.

Overall, 5,720 cases of cancer were recorded and 16 per cent of men reported a history of gum disease which caused them to lose teeth.

After adjusting the results for known risk factors such as smoking, BMI and diet, the researchers found that those with a history of gum disease had a 14 per cent higher risk of all cancers than those with no history of the disease.

Analysing the cancers separately revealed that gum disease increased the risk of pancreatic cancer by 54 per cent, kidney cancer by 49 per cent and lung cancer by 36 per cent.

Lead researcher Dr Dominique Michaud, a reader in cancer epidemiology at Imperial College London, said: 'The mechanism by which gum disease increases cancer risk may be similar to those proposed for the link between gum disease and heart disease - indirectly through systemic inflammation or as a marker of inflammation and infection.'

However, research is needed to determine if this link is also evident in women.

But it is too early to advocate treating gum disease to reduce cancer risk without further research, warned Dr Michaud.

Lancet Oncology 2008; 9: 550-8

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