Periodontal diseases and risk of oral cancer in Southern India: Results from the HeNCe Life study

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Some studies suggest that periodontal diseases increase the risk of oral cancer, but contradictory results also exist. Inadequate control of confounders, including life course exposures, may have influenced prior findings. We estimate the extent to which high levels of periodontal diseases, measured by gingival inflammation and recession, are associated with oral cancer risk using a comprehensive subset of potential confounders and applying a stringent adjustment approach. In a hospital-based case-control study, incident oral cancer cases (N = 350) were recruited from two major referral hospitals in Kerala, South India, from 2008 to 2012. Controls (N = 371), frequency-matched by age and sex, were recruited from clinics at the same hospitals. Structured interviews collected information on several domains of exposure via a detailed life course questionnaire. Periodontal diseases, as measured by gingival inflammation and gingival recession, were evaluated visually by qualified dentists following a detailed protocol. The relationship between periodontal diseases and oral cancer risk was assessed by unconditional logistic regression using a stringent empirical selection of potential confounders corresponding to a 1% change-in-estimates. Generalized gingival recession was significantly associated with oral cancer risk (Odds Ratio = 1.83, 95% Confidence Interval: 1.10–3.04). No significant association was observed between gingival inflammation and oral cancer. Our findings support the hypothesis that high levels of periodontal diseases increase the risk of oral cancer.

What's new?

Can gum disease predict the onset of oral cancer? As with many such questions, there's data supporting both sides. A new report comes down on the side of yes—periodontal disease is associated with risk of oral cancer. It's a complex question, because both gum disease and oral cancer share certain established risk factors, such as smoking. These authors applied stringent criteria to correct for potential confounders. They evaluated periodontal disease by measuring inflammation and recession of the gums and determined that gingival recession—but not inflammation—did significantly associate with oral cancer risk.

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