TUESDAY, June 12 (HealthDay News) -- The gnarly plaque lurking on your gums and teeth may increase your chances of dying from cancer, new research suggests.
Many studies have linked oral health to chronic illnesses such as heart disease. This latest research, however, suggests that people who have more plaque on their teeth and gums are more likely to die prematurely from cancer.
The findings, which appear in the June 11 edition of BMJ Open, show only an association between plaque and a raised risk of early cancer death, and not a cause-and-effect relationship.
In the new study, nearly 1,400 Swedish adults were followed for 24 years. During this time, 58 of the subjects died, 35 from cancer.
Study participants were asked about smoking and other risk factors for cancer. Researchers examined dental-plaque buildup, tartar, gum disease and tooth loss among all participants. The individuals who died had more dental plaque covering larger surface areas of their teeth and gums than their counterparts who did not die during the study period.
Specifically, people with high amounts of dental plaque were 79 percent more likely to die prematurely, the study showed. That said, the absolute risk of any person with dental plaque dying early of cancer was low.
On average, female participants were 61 years old when they died and men were 60. Women would have been expected to live around 13 years longer, and the men an additional 8.5 years, the study authors wrote, so their deaths could be considered premature.
The findings held even after researchers controlled for certain factors known to increase risk of cancer death. Although the study did not examine how the two may be connected, underlying inflammation may be the common denominator.
"Bacteria in the gums may trigger local inflammation, and these bacteria and inflammatory markers don't just stay where th
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