Pancreatic cancer is a malignancy, originating from transformed cells in tissues forming the pancreas. Pancreatic cancer is ranked #4 amongst cancer related deaths today. Difficulty in detection, leads to diagnosis in later stages, resulting in a low cure rate. Pancreatic cancer is responsible for about 40,000 deaths a year in the United States alone. Early diagnosis is key to reducing the mortality rate of pancreatic cancer. How can your dentist help?
Recent research has uncovered a link between various oral bacteria and pancreatic cancer risk. The research showed that people with high levels of various oral bacteria had double the risk of developing pancreatic cancer. Those with lowered levels of harmless oral bacteria had a reduced risk for pancreatic cancer. This is another piece of evidence showing linkage between the mouth and your general health.
Risk Factors for Pancreatic Cancer
-Family History/Genetics. Between 5–10% of patients with pancreatic cancer have a family history of pancreatic cancer. The genes have not been identified.
-Age. The risk of developing pancreatic cancer increases with age. Most cases occur after age 60, while cases before age 40 are uncommon.
-Smoking. Cigarette smoking increases your chances of developing pancreatic cancer by a factor of almost 2x normal.
-Diet. People with poor diets are at an increased risk for developing pancreatic cancer. The factors include diets high in red meat, high consumption of sugary drinks, and lacking fruits and vegetables in diet.
What Did the Study Show regarding Pancreatic Cancer and the Mouth?
The study (published in the journal, Gut) encompassed blood samples from over 800 European adults. The study found that high antibody levels for one or more infectious periodontal bacterium strains of Porphyromonas gingivalis (bacteria common in periodontal disease ), were associated with a doubling of the risk for pancreatic cancer. This is a significant finding.
There have been studies in the past, linking periodontal disease and pancreatic cancer. The Gut research paper is the first to test whether antibodies for oral bacteria are indicators of pancreatic cancer risk. This was also the first study to associate our body’s immune response to commonly found bacteria, with pancreatic cancer risk. The physiological mechanism linking oral bacteria and pancreatic cancer is unclear at this time. The study just reinforces the theory that there is such a mechanism. So while we should not rush out and call this a risk factor it does deserve further study.
Ultimately, further research is needed but it further strengthens the theory that oral health is very important to a person’s overall health and a dentist plays a key role as well. So maintain a healthy mouth through regular dental examinations and professional cleanings, and in turn, you will probably stay a step ahead in your overall health.