Unhealthy gums could put older women at significantly higher risk of developing many forms of deadly cancer, according to the findings of a ground-breaking new study.
The research, which looked at data from 65,000 post-menopausal women between the ages of 54 and 86, found those with a history of gum disease were 14% more likely to develop cancer.
Of these, a one in three developed breast cancer while there was also a highly increased risk of lung cancer, oesophageal, gall bladder and skin cancers.
In response, the Oral Health Foundation is encouraging women to ensure they pay close attention to their gum health to reduce their risk of developing these types of cancer.
Dr Nigel Carter CEO of the Oral Health Foundation said: 'This new study is hugely significant as it could help many millions of women help reduce their risk of cancer.
'We are encouraging post-menopausal women to be alert to the early signs of gum disease; which include red, inflamed gums, bleeding when brushing your teeth and persistent bad breath, and ensure that you visit your dentist as soon as possible to get checked out and avoid any further problems.
'Avoiding gum disease can be as simple as brushing your teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste, using interdental brushes daily and regular visits to the dentist. While gum disease can be treated very effectively, the best approach is certainly prevention and making sure we do not fall foul of it at all.'
The findings, published in the journal of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, were irrespective of smoking habits and concluded that gum disease leaves other parts of the body ‘vulnerable’.
Several significant changes occur in the body during the menopause and many have resulting symptoms which can have a substantial impact on a woman’s day-to-day life, so much so that oral health can at times feel like the least of their worries.