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Gum Disease Linked to Increased Risk of Pancreatic Cancer

2012-10-05 08:37
oral health, gum disease, peridontal disease, pancreatic cancer

Taking care of your oral health not only protects your teeth and gums, but it is also essential for the rest of your body’s health. A new study links gum disease with an increased risk of developing pancreatic cancer.

Dominique Michaud, a Brown University epidemiologist, and Jacques Izard, of the Forsyth Institute and Harvard University, studied the blood samples of more than 800 European adults enrolled in the Imperial College-led European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition Study. Just over 400 had developed pancreatic cancer. The remaining 400 used for comparison were demographically similar, but who did not develop cancer.

High antibody levels for one or more infectious periodontal bacterium strains of Porphyromonas gingivalis were associated with a two-fold risk for pancreatic cancer. This type of oral bacteria is also linked to an increased incidence of Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Although not yet a proven risk factor, the study appears to corroborate a previous study from 2007 which found that poor oral hygiene in men increased the risk of pancreatic cancer by 64%, suggesting a “significant association.”

Izard explained, "We need to further investigate the importance of bacteria in pancreatic cancer beyond the associated risk."

Pancreatic cancer is difficult to detect early and spreads rapidly. The overall five year survival rate, per the National Cancer Institute, is only 5.8%. Cancer of the pancreas is responsible for about 40,000 deaths each year in the US.

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Chief Executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter OBE, said that if there is even the slightest evidence of an association between pancreatic cancer and gum disease, this should be enough to remind people of how critical good oral health is.

“What we must remember is oral health is relatively simple to maintain,” Dr. Carter says. “The Foundation's three key messages- brushing your teeth for two minutes twice a day using a fluoride toothpaste, cutting down on how often you have sugary foods and drinks and visiting the dentist regularly, as often as they recommend- are a great starting point for maintaining good oral health.”

He adds: “If you have swollen gums that bleed regularly when brushing, bad breath, loose teeth or regular mouth infections appear, it is likely you have gum disease. If any of these symptoms persist, your dentist may be able to help you."

Other factors that increase the risk for pancreatic cancer include being African-American, family history of genetic syndromes that increase cancer risk, being overweight or obese, having diabetes, and smoking.

Journal References:
Dominique S Michaud, Jacques Izard, et al. Plasma antibodies to oral bacteria and risk of pancreatic cancer in a large European prospective cohort study. Gut, 18 September 2012 DOI: 10.1136/gutjnl-2012-303006
Dominique S. Michaud, Kaumudi Joshipura, Edward Giovannucci, and Charles S. Fuchs. A Prospective Study of Periodontal Disease and Pancreatic Cancer in US Male Health Professionals. J. Natl. Cancer Inst. 2007 99: 171-175; doi:10.1093/jnci/djk021

Additional Resources:
National Cancer Institute, Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results: Cancer of the Pancreas

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