When the dangers of cancer are discussed or advertised, the link to gum disease doesn't always come up. In fact, some could argue it doesn't get mentioned enough. Now, with new research reinforcing the link between cancer and advanced gum disease, it’s becoming even more imperative that people start paying closer attention to the dangers.

The new data can be found in a long-term collaborative study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Led by Elizabeth Platz of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health/Kimmel Cancer Center and Dr. Dominique Michaud, an epidemiologist at Tufts University School of Medicine, this study focused on the dental exams from 7,466 participants.

This was all part of the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study that covered the late 1990s and ran until 2012. After following up, researchers identified 1,648 new cancer diagnoses.

There was a 24 percent increase in the risk cancer risk for those who had severe periodontitis (as opposed to those with mild or no periodontitis). If the participant had lost all of their teeth as a result of periodontitis, there was a 28 percent increase in cancer risk.

As the study broke down the risk factors even further, they found that the participants with severe periodontal disease also had doubled their risk of lung cancer. Colon cancer was also a risk factor. In fact, they found an 80 percent increase in the risk of colon cancer in those who were edentulous at baseline. There was also a slight risk increase of pancreatic cancer among those who had severe periodontitis.

However, researchers did not find an increased threat of breast cancer, prostate cancer or lymphatic cancer tied to the periodontitis.

Dr. Michaud points out that while the findings are significant, new research is needed to find ways to prevent the cancer risks. "Additional research is needed to evaluate if periodontal disease prevention and treatment could help alleviate the incidence of cancer and reduce the number of deaths due to certain types of cancer," he said.

These findings connect to another line of research (found in Science) that highlighted the presence of bacteria in colorectal cancer tissues. This resides in the mouth with bacteria that connected to periodontal disease.

Anytime cancer is a factor, many wonder about the impact of smoking. Therefore, it had to be taken into account, since smoking can contribute to not only periodontal disease, but also colon cancer and lung cancer.

Platz said even if someone hadn’t smoked before, the dangers associated with periodontal disease were still a significant danger. "When we looked at data for the people who had never smoked, we also found evidence that having severe periodontal disease was related to an increased risk of lung cancer and colorectal cancer," she said.

Platz sees these new findings as a clear case for expanding dental coverage to more people. “Knowing more about the risks that come about with periodontal disease might give more support to having dental insurance in the way that we should be offering health insurance to everyone," she said.