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    Link Between Gum Disease, Breast Cancer Risk?

    Higher odds seen among postmenopausal women who smoke, smoked in the past

    WebMD News from HealthDay

    By Steven Reinberg

    HealthDay Reporter

    MONDAY, Dec. 21, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Gum disease might increase the risk for breast cancer among postmenopausal women, particularly those who smoke, a new study suggests.

    Women with gum disease appeared to have a 14 percent overall increased risk for breast cancer, compared to women without gum disease. And that increased risk seemed to jump to more than 30 percent if they also smoked or had smoked in the past 20 years, researchers said.

    "These findings are useful in providing new insight into what causes breast cancer," said lead author Jo Freudenheim, a professor of epidemiology at the University at Buffalo's School of Public Health and Health Professions in New York.

    "There is good evidence, though, that good dental care is important in any case and that treatment of periodontal disease is important for the health of the mouth," she said.

    But more study is needed before there is enough evidence to say that gum disease causes breast cancer or other diseases, Freudenheim said. This study did not prove a cause-and-effect link between the two, a point made by several experts not involved with the study.

    A number of studies have found an association between gum disease and other chronic diseases, including stroke, heart attack and other cancers, Freudenheim said.

    "There is much to learn about why we see these associations," she said. "In particular, we don't know yet if treating the gum disease would decrease risk of these other diseases."

    The report was published Dec. 21 in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

    Dr. Ashish Sahasra, an orthodontist in Garden City, N.Y., said, "This is going to open a lot of people's eyes to the potential link between gum disease and breast cancer."

    Periodontal disease can cause many health problems, he said. "Gum disease is very common, and sometimes it goes undiagnosed or misdiagnosed and many people don't pay attention to it, but it's a serious disease that needs to be treated immediately," he added.

    For the study, Freudenheim and her colleagues collected data on nearly 74,000 postmenopausal women who took part in the Women's Health Initiative study. None of the women had a history of breast cancer. After an average follow-up of almost seven years, more than 2,000 women were diagnosed with breast cancer.

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