Gum disease may cause cancer

iStock

The health hazards associated with chronic periodontitis (gum disease) extend way beyond the mouth. For years people have been warned that persistent periodontitis can cause heart disease. Now a new study suggests that gum disease may also be a risk factor for cancers of the head and neck.

As reported in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers, and Prevention, the study included 266 patients with cancers of the head or neck treated between 1999 and 2005, and 207 control subjects.

Periodontitis was determined by alveolar bone loss seen on x-rays, Dr Mine Tezal, from The State University of New York, US, and colleagues note. Alveolar bone is the ridge of bone that surrounds the roots of the teeth, holding them in place. Loss of this bone is typically seen with severe periodontal disease.

With each millimetre of alveolar bone loss, the risk of head and neck cancer increased more than 4-fold, the report indicates. The link was seen even in subjects who had never used tobacco and alcohol. - (Reuters Health, September 2009)

SOURCE: Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers, and Prevention, September 2009.

Read more:
All about periodontitis

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.

LEARN MORE