Aug 13, 2021 - minute readminutes read

Is Gum Disease Linked to Cancer? Case Study Evidence

In recent years, key epidemiological studies have identified a link between periodontal disease and the risk of developing cancer. In this article, we take a look at the two most significant studies.

The focus of research into the connections between periodontal diseases and general illnesses have focused predominantly on conditions such as Diabetes, Heart Disease, and Adverse Pregnancy Outcomes. However, in recent years, key epidemiological studies have identified a link between periodontal disease and the risk of developing cancer.

No causality was proven in the early studies, whereby periodontal disease left untreated could cause certain types of cancer in the body. Nevertheless, the occurrence of periodontal disease and cancer risk was worth investigating and continues to be an important topic for studies.

Evidence roundup

Two of the most recent and significant studies that looked into this topic have yielded more answers and identified areas where further research is required.

Periodontal Disease Assessed Using Clinical Dental Measurements and Cancer Risk in the ARIC Study

The association of periodontal disease severity with cancer risk was evaluated prospectively in older adults in a cohort study with 7,466 participants that included a comprehensive dental examination.

Key Findings

  1. 24% increase in the risk of developing cancer among participants with severe periodontitis (compared to those with mild to no periodontitis at baseline)
  2. Among patients who had no teeth (which can be a sign of severe periodontitis) the increase in risk was 28%
  3. The highest risk was observed in cases of lung cancer, followed by colorectal cancer

Significance of the Study 

  1. This study used data from dental examinations and not self-reported periodontitis as previous studies have done, making the evidence more accurate. 
  2. This study provides additional evidence that cancer risk, especially for lung and colorectal cancer, is elevated in individuals with periodontitis.


Further studies are needed to determine whether periodontal disease prevention and treatment could help alleviate the incidence of cancer and reduce the number of deaths due to certain types of cancer.

Periodontal Disease and Incident Cancer Risk among Postmenopausal Women: Results from the Women's Health Initiative Observational Cohort

In a prospective cohort study comprising 65,869 women (aged between 54 and 86 year), periodontal disease information was obtained via self-report questionnaires administered between 1999 and 2003. Physician-adjudicated incident total cancers were the main outcomes and site-specific cancers were secondary outcomes.

Key Findings

  1. Periodontal disease increases the risk of total cancer among older women, irrespective of smoking
  2. Certain anatomic sites appear to be vulnerable to cancer in this group

Significance of the Study 

  1. Few studies have examined periodontal disease as a risk factor for total cancer, and none have focused on older women


Our findings support the need for further understanding of the effect of periodontal disease on cancer outcomes. Thanks to studies such as these, future research will continue to discover further evidence of the connection between cancer and periodontal disease.


"Wellness is a connection of paths: knowledge and action"

Johsua Welch

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