Breast Cancer May Be Linked To Oral Health

Tuesday 17th May 2016

Did you know that your oral health may be a big risk factor for breast cancer?

Many studies have been conducted to determine whether or not your oral health may be linked to different types of cancer, especially breast cancer.

Many people realize the major risk factors of cancer: smoking, alcohol use, etc. Some more surprising news is how your oral health can be connected.

Studies show that you may be 11 times more likely to develop breast cancer if you have poor oral health or gum disease. A study reported by the World Health Organization (WHO), conducted between 1985-2001, concluded that gum disease increases the risk of breast cancer. In another study, the Journal of Breast Cancer Research and Treatment conducted a survey of more than 3,200 people and found that those with periodontal disease (gum disease) had a higher occurrence of breast cancer than those who didn't. 

Gum disease has also been linked to many other such illnesses like:

  • Diabetes: According to the American Academy of Periodontology, diabetic patients are more likely to develop gum disease. This, in turn, increases risks of infection.
  • Heart disease: It has been found that people with gum disease are twice as likely to suffer from a coronary artery disease as those who are without it. As oral bacteria enters the blood stream, it attaches to plaque in the hearts blood vessels and helps cause clot formation. Blood clots can obstruct normal blood flow and can lead to coronary arrest (heart attack).
  • Prostate cancer: In a 1986 study done of almost 50,000 men, Dr. Dominique Michaud concluded that gum disease increased the risk of prostate cancer by almost 14 percent.
  • Problems with pregnancy: Pregnant women who have periodontal disease may be more likely to have babies that are born early and too small.
  • Pneumonia: Bacteria found in the oral cavity may be aspirated into the lungs and cause respiratory diseases, including pneumonia.

Gum disease causes inflammation, which can contribute to these illnesses as well as many others. This has been confirmed through testing and blood work, revealing C-reactive proteins. C-reactive proteins are inflammation markers which decrease when infection of the gums has been brought under control. It also increases with advanced periodontal disease. Bacteria created by gum disease can also lower the immune system, which can contribute to incidences of breast cancer.

Have you already been diagnosed with breast cancer or other forms of cancer?

There are some things to be aware of if you have already been diagnosed with cancer. Many patients are treated with chemotherapy and/or radiation, which are used to kill or slow breast cancer cells. Side effects of such treatment can cause:

  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Alterations in taste
  • Dry mouth and, in severe cases, difficulty with speech or eating
  • Increased risk of oral infection

How to Minimize Side Effects

  • Brush with a soft bristled toothbrush
  • Floss gently
  • Use alcohol-free mouthwash
  • Avoid dental treatment when:
    • White blood cell counts are low
    • About 1 week after chemotherapy treatments
    • Around any scheduled surgery times
  • If you wear dentures, make sure to keep them clean, they fit well, and take them out at night
  • Even slight bleeding or inflammation of the gums should not be ignored