Pancreatic cancer is extremely difficult to treat, and is now the fourth leading cause of cancer death in the United States. While one established risk factor for the disease is smoking, other research has indicated that obesity, diabetes type 2, and insulin resistance may all play contributing roles.
Many recent studies have indicated an association between periodontal disease, stroke, diabetes and other ailments. But now a recent study conducted by a team of researchers at Brown University has revealed gum disease to be associated with pancreatic cancer. At the very least, these scientists hope that one day periodontal disease may assist with identifying those people who may be at greatest risk.
According to the contents of the study published in the journal Gut, the Brown University research team compared 405 people with pancreatic cancer to 416 people who did not have the disease. Higher levels of antibodies of P. gingivalis, a bacterium significant in the development of gum disease, were found at twice the levels in people with pancreatic cancer than in those people without pancreatic cancer.
While this study doesn’t show a causal effect the research did show an association. Other studies that have shown an association between pancreatic cancer and gum disease include a collaborative study conducted in 2007 between the Harvard School of Public Health and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. This study results reveals, that after adjusting for smoking, age, diabetes and body mass index plus a number of other factors, men with periodontal disease had a 63 percent higher risk of developing the cancer than men who did not have poor gum health.
Under the Harvard study, men with gum disease, and that were non-smokers, were found to have a 2-fold increased risk of developing pancreatic cancer. This 2007 study is an important one since previous studies dismissed the periodontal disease and pancreatic cancer link as being directly related to smoking.
What is a Plausible Association?
Researchers have explained the association as a “plausible mechanism.” Since periodontal disease results in chronic inflammation and a harmful accumulation of bacteria in the mouth and gut, people with gum disease ultimately harbor higher amounts of cancer-causing nitrosamines. According to the Linus Pauling Institute of Oregon University, nitrosamines are found in food, body fluids and can be ingested on the job. Some foods that contain nitrosamines include bacon, cured meats, eggs and beer. Chemical manufacturing, and pesticide production and use can also contribute to nitrosamine exposure.
As studies continue to associate periodontal disease with other life-threatening diseases like pancreatic cancer, there can be no argument that visiting your dentist twice a year can contribute to overall good health. With time and innovative science on our side, routine dental check-ups might just save your life!
If you want more information or just want to talk, feel free to contact Pia at my Southfield dental office at 248-356-8790 to schedule an appointment.
Well, that’s all for today. Until next time,
Mark W. Langberg, DDS, MAGD