Gum Disease Tied to Colon Cancer Risk

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Gum disease may increase your risk of colorectal cancer.

A new study, published in Cancer Prevention Research, included 42,486 men and women participating in two large continuing health surveys. Over the past several decades, the participants had periodically reported information on health and diet, including reports of gingivitis and tooth loss.

The researchers reviewed pathology reports from colonoscopies, documenting the incidence of two types of intestinal lesions that are precursors of colon cancer: serrated polyps and conventional adenomas. Removal of these lesions reduces colon cancer risk substantially.

Compared with people with no history of periodontal disease, those who had gum disease had a 17 percent increased relative risk of having a serrated polyp and an 11 percent increased risk of a conventional adenoma. The scientists also found that the loss of four or more teeth was associated with a 20 percent increased risk for having a serrated polyp.

The study controlled for smoking, body mass index, aspirin use and physical activity, among other known risks for colon cancer.

“We don’t know exactly how much poor oral health increases the risk for colorectal cancer,” said the senior author, Mingyang Song, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “We need further studies to determine how the oral microbiome and the gut microbiome may interact to influence cancer risk.”

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