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Can gum disease lead to cancer?

There is no conclusive research showing that gum disease causes cancer. Studies indicate that severe gum disease may be associated with several other health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes or stroke. However, saying that two conditions are associated is not the same as saying that one causes the other. It only means that some studies have shown that more people with gum disease experience one of the conditions mentioned above than people without gum disease. This finding could be the result of another factor, like smoking. For example, people who smoke are at higher risk for heart disease, stroke and cancer as well as gum disease. Well-designed clinical trials are needed to establish whether a cause-and-effect relationship exists and to determine if, or how, treating gum disease may affect your overall health.
It's possible that gum (periodontal) disease could raise your overall risk of getting cancer. A study of more than 48,000 men found that those with periodontal disease had a 14% greater overall risk of having cancer than men without periodontal disease. The men with gum disease were 36% more at risk for lung cancer, 49% more at risk for kidney cancer, 54% more at risk for pancreatic cancer, and 30% more at risk for blood cancers such as lymphoma and leukemia.
Gum disease is the body's number one source of chronic low-grade inflammation, sort of a "silent alarm" going off from a "smoldering fire," which can have ravaging effects on the entire body especially the heart, brain, lungs and pancreas, and uterus. When untreated this inflammation has been shown to lead to cancer. In a study from Harvard University, reported in 2006, men with advanced gum disease were found to have a 63% higher risk of developing pancreatic cancer.
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Gum disease, or periodontitis, is a risk factor for developing head and neck cancer. Learn about this topic with Dr. Oz and Dr. William Li.


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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.