Periodontal Disease Increases Risk for Pancreatic Cancer

pancreas Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.netGuess what…research has found yet another serious health link with periodontal disease–this time it’s a link to pancreatic cancer, one of the most fatal and painful cancers. More specifically, research has found that there is a mechanism that links the oral bacteria that cause gum disease and pancreatic cancer.

People with high levels of antibodies that fight against oral bacteria indeed have a higher risk of developing pancreatic cancer. On the flip side, those with high levels of a specific, harmless oral bacteria may indicate a REDUCED risk of ever developing pancreatic cancer.

Researchers from Brown University measured the levels of antibodies to 25 different pathogenic (disease-causing) oral bacteria from over 400 patients with pancreatic cancer and over 400 participants without pancreatic cancer. The results shows that those who had high levels of antibodies against the bacteria Porphyromonas gingivalis, a bacteria known to cause some forms of periodontal disease, were twice as likely to develop pancreatic cancer than those with lower levels.

The team also studied the association of pancreatic cancer with nonpathogenic oral bacteria, and they found that those who had higher levels of antibodies to these bacteria had a 45% lower risk of developing pancreatic cancer than those with lower levels of these antibodies. As a result, they theorize that these levels of antibodies may indicate an innate yet highly active immune response that fights against cancer.

“The impact of immune defense against pathogenic bacteria undeniably plays a role,” said Jacques Izard from the Forsyth Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the collaborating institution of the study. “We need to further investigate the importance of bacteria in pancreatic cancer beyond the associated risk.”

Pancreatic cancer is extremely lethal and extremely difficult to detect. Most patients die from the disease within six months of diagnosis. All the more reason to continue your own personal oral health battle against gum disease, right?

The study was published online on Sept. 18 in the Gut journal before it was published in print.

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