Breast Cancer and Dental Health
October is breast cancer awareness month. The goal during breast cancer awareness month is to raise consciousness and educate people about this disease that affects almost 300,000 new patients each year. While there is a number of different schools of thought when it comes to preventing cancer, it is not always avoidable. Sometimes cancer can come from unexpected sources as well. This month we’ll be focusing on the link between gum disease and breast cancer. As you may know, many conditions are thought to be linked to oral health. As a result, gum disease can put you at risk for a number of other various diseases, including breast cancer.
What is breast cancer?
Breast cancer is the result of a cancerous growth, or tumor, in one or both breasts. It is a disease that mostly affects women, but may also affect men. While the exact cause of breast cancer is unclear, the most significant risk factors associated with it are age and family history. The older you get the more important it is to receive annual checkups, especially if you have a family history of breast cancer. Symptoms of breast cancer may include the presence of lumps in the breast, bloody discharge from a nipple, and changes in the shape and/or texture of the nipple or breast. Thankfully, there are a number of different things you can do, and lifestyle changes you can integrate, that may help to prevent the spread and symptoms of breast cancer. This list is not limited to (but does highlight) things like restricting your alcohol intake to less than one drink per day. Caution should be taken, however, as even a small amounts can still increase your risk. Another good idea for the prevention of breast cancer is to quit smoking, or to never start. While this is obvious for the overall health benefits to your body, studies show that smokers are also at higher risk for breast cancer, particularly with premenopausal women. Lastly, staying active will help you maintain a healthy weight and reduce your risk of breast cancer. The Department of Health and Human Services suggests adults should receive either 150 minutes of moderate anaerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity per week.
What is gum disease?
The mouth is home to a variety of different types of bacteria, and some of them can be harmful if left unchecked. This harmful bacteria, called plaque, can eventually lead to gum disease if proper hygiene is not practiced. When a harmful bacteria strain does make a home in your oral cavity, conditions such as gingivitis and periodontitis can arise. Gum disease can be hardly noticeable, and relatively easy to treat, and usually only severe cases (periodontitis) needing surgery. Symptoms of gum disease include bleeding, sore or red gums, necrosis of gum tissue and bone matter, receding gums, and tooth loss. There is another potential side effect or symptom of gum disease that can be life threatening, however. When you hear the words “gum disease”, you don’t often relate it to anything that can be fatal, it is more of an annoyance if anything. However, studies have shown there may be more to gum disease than was initially perceived: it has been linked to a 14% higher risk of breast cancer in patients who suffer from it.
How are breast cancer and gum disease linked?
There is a delicate balance of bacteria that live in the damp, warm and dark cavern of your mouth. It is a perfect breeding ground for bacteria. When the balance is optimal there is often nothing to worry about. The good bacteria will maintain the balance by outnumbering and killing off invaders. But when harmful bacteria finds a more permanent home in your mouth, gum and periodontal disease can occur. An immune response releases proinflammatory cytokines to regulate the body’s overall immune reaction to the infection, but these cytokines can cause another unintended side effect. According to a study published in 2014 by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), inflammation is theorized to be a key player in tumor initiation, promotion, and angiogenesis (the development of new blood vessels allowing tumors to develop and thrive). The study showed that these cytokines play an important role in the introduction and protection of breast cancer tumors. With that taken into account, good oral hygiene has never been more important in the fight against breast cancer.
Gum Disease Treatment in Forest Hills, NY
If you notice continual red, swollen, and/or bleeding gums, schedule an appointment with our office in Forest Hills, NY immediately, as these may be early indicators of advanced gum disease. With our advanced, laser gum disease therapy treatments, we are able to non-invasively target and remove harmful bacteria, while stimulating healthy, beneficial growth of tissue and bone.