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Good oral hygiene may not only keep a healthy smile, it may also help save your life, as research continues to point to potential links between gum disease and some types of cancer. After making adjustments for other factors such as age, smoking, diabetes, BMI (body mass index), researchers have found significant associations between a history of periodontal disease and several cancers, most notably lung cancer, pancreatic cancer, and various hematologic (blood) cancers such as non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, leukemia and multiple myeloma.
An established and widely known factor in lung cancer is cigarette smoking. Many other links have been made between lung cancer and other behaviors, conditions and environmental factors. Lung cancer patients typically have a higher rate of a history of periodontal disease, so this may prove to be an additional factor in developing gum disease.
Cigarette smoking has been linked to all types of cancer, as have factors such as obesity, type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance. However, studies interestingly have shown that people who have never smoked had a two-fold increase in risk of pancreatic cancer. One explanation for this may be that the inflammation caused by gum disease may promote cancer-causing conditions in the body. Individuals suffering from gum disease consistently experience chronic systemic inflammation, which may contribute to the promotion of cancer cells, especially in organs like the pancreas.
Another possible explanation is that gum disease could lead to increased pancreatic carcinogenesis, as gum disease sufferers have higher levels of oral bacteria and nitrosamines, (carcinogens), in their oral cavity. Some studies have shown that the increased presence of nitrosamines in the gastrointestinal system may play a role in the development of pancreatic cancer.
Research has also shown that head and neck cancers were much more likely to occur in people with a history of periodontal disease than people with a good oral health history. This may explain why even though smoking rates have been on the decline for the past 4 decades, the rates of head and neck cancers continue to climb. This also serves as further evidence supporting the theory that chronic inflammation and infection in the body can have a great impact on the risk of developing cancers, respiratory and heart diseases, as well as myriad other health problems.
There is an obvious, direct link between periodontal health and oral cancer, since both exist in the oral cavity. Oral cancers is currently the 6th most common cancer in the United States, but in the past 30 years there have been no significant strides in improving treatments or survival rates of cases of Oral Cancer. This is mainly because reliable early detection techniques are lacking, and by the time most people with oral cancer seek medical care, the disease is often advanced. For this reason, it is of utmost importance for you to be familiar with the many symptoms of mouth cancers, and to seek medical care if you experience any of the following suspicious signs or symptoms: Oral lump, lesion, or ulcer: Usually small, and occurs on the tongue, lip, or other mouth area which may appear as a deep, hard-edged crack in the tissue, and is usually pale in color, but not always. May also appear dark or discolored. Most often painless at first, but when advanced, may develop a burning sensation or pain. Mouth sores, abnormal or persistent unusual taste in the mouth, Difficulty swallowing or Various tongue problems
As with all disease prevention, it is recommended that you see your dentist regularly for dental examinations and preventive oral care. Early detection is key, which is why we offer free gum disease consultations in Manhattan, Long Island, and Nutley, NJ. Many oral cancers that you might not notice yourself can be detected early by dentists and periodontists during routine oral examinations. You can also monitor your own oral health in between check-ups by checking for the above signs and symptoms of oral cancers. Note that any mouth sore that does not go away after two weeks is cause for concern and medical advice, and it may be an early sign of mouth cancer.
Other helpful tips to prevent oral cancer: