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Does Gum Disease Increase Breast Cancer Risk?

This Breast Cancer Awareness Month, your dentist in St. Joseph has some interesting news about a fascinating connection that has gained attention in recent years – the potential link between gum disease (periodontal disease) and an increased risk of breast cancer. While it might seem far-fetched at first, researchers have been delving into this topic, seeking to understand whether our oral health could affect other parts of our body. As it turns out, the current state of research supports a relationship between gum disease and breast cancer risk.

Understanding Gum Disease

Before we delve into the possible connection between gum disease and breast cancer, let’s briefly discuss what gum disease is. Gum disease is a common oral health condition caused by an accumulation of bacteria in the dental plaque that forms on teeth. It typically starts as gingivitis, which is the milder form, and can progress to periodontitis if not treated by your dentist in St. Joseph. But what’s most important for the sake of this blog is that it can cause inflammation of the gums. 

The Inflammatory Connection

Inflammation is a key element in both gum disease and cancer. Chronic inflammation is known to be a contributing factor in the development of various types of cancer, including breast cancer. When the gums are infected and inflamed due to gum disease, the body’s inflammatory response is activated. This chronic inflammation may lead to the release of pro-inflammatory molecules and cytokines (proteins that help control inflammation in your body) into the bloodstream. Some researchers believe that these inflammatory molecules could potentially affect distant tissues, including breast tissue, increasing the risk of cancer development.

Research Findings

While the link between gum disease and breast cancer is still under investigation, several studies have provided interesting insights. One study published in the American Association for Cancer Research found that periodontal disease was associated with an increased risk of postmenopausal breast cancer. An additional study shows that the risk of breast cancer was 14% higher in women who had gum disease compared to women who didn’t have gum disease. 

Oral Bacteria

One of the theories behind the gum disease-breast cancer connection involves oral bacteria. Researchers have discovered that certain types of bacteria associated with gum disease can enter the bloodstream and potentially travel to other parts of the body, including the breast tissue. Once there, these bacteria may trigger an inflammatory response that could contribute to the development of breast cancer. However, more research is needed to establish a direct causal link between specific oral bacteria and breast cancer.

The potential link between gum disease and an increased risk of breast cancer is a topic that continues to pique the interest of researchers. While some studies have suggested a correlation, it’s essential to approach this information with caution and recognize that more research is needed to establish a definitive connection. In the meantime, focusing on maintaining good oral hygiene and overall health remains the best course of action. Make sure you brush and floss daily, eat a well-balanced diet, quit using tobacco products, and see your dentist in St. Joseph at least every six months. By taking these steps, you can reduce your risk of gum disease and potentially mitigate any associated health risks.

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