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Periodontal disease severity and cancer risk in postmenopausal women: the Buffalo OsteoPerio Study

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Few prospective studies have reported on relationships between objective periodontal disease (PD) measures and cancer risk. This association was examined in 1,337 postmenopausal women participating in the Buffalo OsteoPerio Study.


Oral alveolar crestal height (ACH) was measured using oral radiographs. Incident cancers were adjudicated with medical records. Hazard ratios (HRs) and 95 % confidence intervals (CIs) for associations between ACH and incident cancer outcomes were estimated using Cox proportional hazards models.


There were 203 confirmed total incident cancer cases during follow-up (12.2 ± 4.2 years). After adjusting for age and smoking, there were no statistically significant associations between ACH-defined PD categories and total cancer risk (mild/moderate vs. none: HR 1.33, 95 % CI 0.91–1.94; severe vs. none: HR 1.20, 95 % CI 0.77–1.86). ACH-defined PD categories were not associated with common site-specific cancers. Whole-mouth mean and worst-site ACH (per 1 mm loss) were significantly associated with increased risk of lung (adjusted HR 1.81, 95 % CI 1.30–2.54; adjusted HR 1.34, 95 % CI 1.08–1.66, respectively), but not total or other site-specific cancer. Smoking status modified the associations between continuous ACH variables and total cancer risk; measures of PD were associated with total cancer among smokers but not never smokers (interaction p = 0.02 and p < 0.01 for whole-mouth mean and worst-site ACH, respectively).


ACH-defined PD was associated with total cancer risk in ever but not never smoking postmenopausal women. Whole-mouth mean and worst-site ACH were associated with increased lung cancer risk. However, these results need to be interpreted cautiously given the small number of lung cancer cases (n = 18). Further research utilizing a larger sample is warranted to confirm the relationships among oral bone loss, site-specific cancers, and total cancer.

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This study was supported by Grant R01DE013505 from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, National Institutes of Health (NIH), Bethesda, Md., to Dr. Wactawski-Wende, U.S. Army, Medical Research and Materiel Command, Fort Detrick, Md., Grant OS950077 and NIH/National Heart Lung and Blood Institute contracts N01WH32122 and HHSN268201100001C (Women’s Health Initiative) to Dr. Wactawski-Wende. Xiaodan Mai was funded by Interdisciplinary Training in Cancer Epidemiology: R25CA113951. The WHI program is funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services through contracts HHSN268201100046C, HHSN268201100001C, HHSN268201100002C, HHSN268201100003C, HHSN268201100004C, and HHSN271201100004C.

Short list of WHI investigators

Program Office: (National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, Bethesda, Maryland) Jacques Rossouw, Shari Ludlam, Dale Burwen, Joan McGowan, Leslie Ford, and Nancy Geller. Clinical Coordinating Center: (Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, WA) Garnet Anderson, Ross Prentice, Andrea LaCroix, and Charles Kooperberg. Investigators and Academic Centers: (Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA) JoAnn E. Manson; (MedStar Health Research Institute/Howard University, Washington, DC) Barbara V. Howard; (Stanford Prevention Research Center, Stanford, CA) Marcia L. Stefanick; (The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH) Rebecca Jackson; (University of Arizona, Tucson/Phoenix, AZ) Cynthia A. Thomson; (University at Buffalo, Buffalo, NY) Jean Wactawski-Wende; (University of Florida, Gainesville/Jacksonville, FL) Marian Limacher; (University of Iowa, Iowa City/Davenport, IA) Robert Wallace; (University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA) Lewis Kuller; (Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, NC) Sally Shumaker. Women’s Health Initiative Memory Study: (Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, NC) Sally Shumaker.

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Correspondence to Jean Wactawski-Wende.

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Mai, X., LaMonte, M.J., Hovey, K.M. et al. Periodontal disease severity and cancer risk in postmenopausal women: the Buffalo OsteoPerio Study. Cancer Causes Control 27, 217–228 (2016).

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