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How does periodontitis increase head and neck cancer risk in women over 40?

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Advanced gum disease, or periodontitis, causes inflammation and infection around the soft tissue and bone that support the teeth; this is a cancer risk in and of itself. Each millimeter of bone loss due to chronic periodontitis is associated with a four times greater risk of head and neck cancer. Female hormones make women over 40 more susceptible to bone loss. In addition to this, when a person suffers from periodontitis, their saliva contains higher levels of a protein called VEGF, which spurs the growth of blood vessels that feed cancer cells.
Periodontitis, a form of gum disease characterized by inflammation, can increase the risk for some forms of cancer. When you develop periodontitis, the inflammation gradually destroys the gums and other tissue (alveolar bone) that supports your teeth. Some evidence suggests that this inflammation may increase the risk for cancer in the head and neck. A 2009 study found that every millimeter of alveolar bone loss is associated with a four-fold increase in the risk for head and neck cancer. Hormonal changes which women undergo after age 40 may heighten their risk for periodontitis, which in turn may raise the risk for head and neck cancer.

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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.