Can Your Gum Health Predict Colon Cancer?

Recent findings in a study published by American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) suggest that the presence of periodontal disease is associated with a slightly higher risk of developing colorectal precursor lesions, which include serrated polyps and adenomas.

Data on tooth loss and periodontal disease was obtained from the Nurses’ Health Study (1992-2002) and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (1992-2010). 17,904 women and 24,582 men were included in the sample size of the study. Data regarding polyp diagnosis was obtained through self-reported questionnaires and later confirmed through medical records. The data were also adjusted for smoking and other related risk factors that lead to periodontal disease and colorectal cancer. The study found that:

  • Individuals with periodontal disease had about a 17% increased risk of developing serrated polyps
  • Individuals with periodontal disease had about an 11% increased risk of developing conventional adenomas
  • Individuals who have lost four or more teeth presented a 20% increased risk of developing serrated polyps

Though the research furthers scientific understanding of the interaction of oral health and gut health, additional research is needed to explore the extent of the correlation and how this influences the risk of colorectal cancer for a definitive conclusion. A previous study published by the International Journal of Cancer suggests that the correlation between periodontal disease and carcinogenesis in the gut may be attributed to the increase in systemic inflammation, thus increasing immune dysregulation and affecting gut microbiota. The study also mentions that positive associations between periodontal disease and other forms of cancers such as lung, breast, and pancreatic cancer have been reported.

Colorectal cancer is largely preventable given that precursor lesions can be detected and removed. Individuals should regularly monitor their oral health and speak to their medical providers about family history regarding periodontal disease and colorectal cancer to prevent early onset of colorectal cancer.



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