Gum Disease May Raise Cancer Risk

Study Shows Small Increase in Cancer Risk in Men With History of Gum Disease

Medically Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on May 23, 2008
From the WebMD Archives

May 27, 2008 -- Men with a history of gum disease may be more likely than other men to develop cancer, a new study shows.

The study included more than 48,000 male health care workers who were followed from 1986 through January 2004.

When the study started, the men were asked if they had a history of gum disease with bone loss. They also answered questions about their diet, physical activity, smoking, and medical history.

The men completed health surveys every two years and dietary surveys every four years.

During the study, the group had 5,720 new cases of cancer, not counting nonmelanoma skin cancer or prostate cancer that hadn't spread beyond the prostate.

Compared to men with healthy gums, men with a history of gum disease were:

  • 14% more likely to develop cancer overall
  • 49% more likely to develop kidney cancer
  • 54% more likely to develop pancreatic cancer
  • 30% more likely to develop blood cancers

Those results take various risk factors into consideration.

The findings show a "small, but significant increase in overall cancer risk," write the researchers, who included Dominique Michaud, ScM, of Imperial College London.

Michaud's team notes that inflammation from gum disease may play a role, but observational studies like this one don't prove cause and effect, so more research is needed to check the findings, which appear in The Lancet Oncology.

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Michaud, D. The Lancet Oncology, June 2008; vol 9: pp 550-558.

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