Postmenopausal women with periodontal disease are more likely to develop breast cancer than women who do not have chronic inflammatory disease, and a history of smoking significantly affects their risk, according to a study published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.1

Researchers led by Jo Freudenheim, PhD, of the University at Buffalo’s School of Public Health and Health Professions monitored 73 737 postmenopausal women who were enrolled in the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study and had no previous breast cancer. They stratified for risk based on patient’s smoking history.

Periodontal disease was found to be reported in 26.1% of women. With a mean follow-up of 6.7 years, 2124 women were diagnosed with breast cancer.

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Researchers found that among all observed women, risk of breast cancer was 14% higher in women who had periodontal disease.

Among patients who had quit smoking within the past 20 years, those with periodontal disease had a 36% higher risk of breast cancer. Women who were current smokers at the time of the study had a 32% higher risk if they had periodontal disease, but the association was not statistically significant.

Patients who had never smoked or quit more than 20 years ago had a 6% and 8% increased risk, respectively.

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“One possible explanation for the link between periodontal disease and breast cancer is that those bacteria enter the body’s circulation and ultimately affect breast tissue,” Dr Freuendheim stated. “However, further studies are needed to establish a causal link.”


  1. Periodontal disease associated with increased breast cancer risk in postmenopausal women [news release]. American Association for Cancer Research; December 21, 2015. Accessed December 21, 2015.