Study links gum disease to cancer in older women

Experts says it's too early for alarm, but the findings provide another good reason to pay attention to oral health.

Published: November, 2017

Image: © Glayan/Thinkstock

Is gum disease linked to cancer? A study published in the August issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention suggests a tie between the two, finding that older women with gum disease had a higher risk for cancers of the breast, lung, and esophagus as well as melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer.

But it's not time to sound the alarm just yet, because while the study was published in a well-regarded journal, it had limitations that may have affected the results, says Alessandro Villa, instructor in oral medicine, infection, and immunity at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine and associate surgeon at Brigham and Women's Hospital. Even so, he says, your oral health should still be a top priority because while it may be premature to say gum disease and cancer are linked, research has shown that gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, may increase the risk of heart disease and other health problems.

To continue reading this article, you must log in.
  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise

New subscriptions to Harvard Health Online are temporarily unavailable. Click the button below to learn about our other subscription offers.

Learn More »