Gum disease has been linked to a significantly increased risk of contracting cancer, even in nonsmokers, scientists have shown.
By studying more than 48,000 US men the team found that overall cancer risk was 21% higher for those with a history of gum disease who had never smoked.
The same group had a 35% greater risk of blood cancers. Including those who smoked, gum disease was associated with a 14% higher overall cancer risk.
The research team from Imperial College London suggested that gum disease could either directly influence cancer risk, or possibly signified a weak immune system.
Dr Dominique Michaud used data from the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study which began in 1986 and involved a large group of US male health professionals aged 40 to 75.
Participants responded to questions about their health and lifestyle posted by Harvard University.
Gum disease with bone loss and tooth loss in the previous two years were recorded, together with smoking history and diet. A note was also taken of any new cancers diagnosed during a follow-up period typically covering 17.7 years.
From a pool of 48,375 men, a total of 5,720 cases of cancer were recorded, excluding nonmalignant skin cancer and nonaggressive prostate cancer.
The most common cancers were bowel, melanoma (malignant skin cancer), lung, bladder and advanced prostate.
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