Spit test might diagnose pancreatic cancer early

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Bacteria in the mouth could signal pancreatic cancer.

Researchers have identified certain types of mouth bacteria that could mean a person has pancreatic cancer. The finding means performing a simple test spit might help with early recognition of cancer of the pancreas that often has no symptoms until it is in advanced stages.

In a small study, published in the journal “Gut” researchers compared saliva in the mouths of 10 healthy people and 10 people with pancreatic cancer people to find some bacteria associated with gum disease correlated with cancer of the pancreas in 80 percent of the study participants.

The two types of mouth bacteria linked to the disease and identified by checking spit samples were N Elongata and S mitis.

Now the researchers wonder if the bacteria might cause the cancer, or if the difference in bacterial mouth colonies is just an effect. Bacteria have been implicated for pancreatic cancer from past studies.


Mouth bacteria also linked to pancreatitis

The scientists also looked a mouth bacteria in people with chronic inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis), finding differences in two other types of bacteria when they compared to healthy people.

Among 28 patients tested, Neisseria elongata and Streptococcus mitis - showed up less frequently in the mouths of the cancer patients compared to healthy peers.

Other bacteria, Granulicatella adjacens were significantly higher in people with pancreatic cancer.

Testing a person’s spit, especially those at high risk for pancreatic cancer, could prove to be a valuable diagnostic tool. The finding showed certain bacteria in the mouth could be a signal for cancer of the pancreas.

Gut doi:10.1136/gutjnl-2011-300784
"Variations of oral microbiota are associated with pancreatic diseases including pancreatic cancer"
James J. Farrell et al.
October 12, 2011



This is great news! No cancer is good cancer, but pancreatic cancer is particularly devastating.