Gum Disease Linked to Cancer Increase Among Nonsmokers

Courtesy of


Courtesy of

Periodontitis has been linked with cancers that also are associated with smoking, even among patients who have never smoked, according to a team of researchers from Tufts, Brown, and Harvard Universities. The researchers suspect that periodontitis may impact the risk of cancer through immune system dysregulation.

The research comprised 19,933 men in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study who had never smoked cigarettes, pipes, or cigars and followed them during 26 years of follow-up reporting. It found a 13% increase in total cancer among those who had periodontitis but had never smoked, with a 45% increase among those with advanced periodontitis.  

Periodontitis was not associated with prostate cancer, colorectal cancer, or melanoma, which were the most common cancers reported among the subjects. But it was associated with a 33% increase in risk for smoking-related cancers including lung, bladder, oropharnygeal, esophageal, kidney, stomach, and liver cancers.

Also, advanced periodontitis as defined by having fewer than 17 teeth was associated with a 2.57 hazard ratio for smoking-related cancers. It specifically was associated with greater risks of esophageal and head and neck cancers with a 6.29 hazard ratio and of bladder cancer with a 5.06 hazard ratio.

The researchers believe further studies are needed to examine the immune impact of advanced periodontitis on cancer, especially those cancers known to be caused by smoking. This study, “Periodontal Disease and Risk of All Cancers Among Male Never Smokers: An Updated Analysis of the Health Professionals Follow-up Study,” was published by Annals of Oncology.

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