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Periodontal
disease linked to pancreatic cancer

Periodontal
disease linked to pancreatic cancer

Pancreatic cancer, the fourth leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States, may be linked to periodontal disease, say researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.

Periodontal disease stems from bacterial infection and inflammation of the gums that causes loss of bone in the jaw, resulting in tooth loss in severe cases.

"Our study provides the first strong evidence that periodontal disease may increase the risk of pancreatic cancer. This finding is of significance, since it may provide some new insights into the mechanism of this highly fatal disease," said lead author Dominique Michaud, assistant professor of epidemiology at HSPH in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

In the study researchers looked at data from 51,529 American men working in the health professions gathered every two years from 1986 to 2002. After adjusting for age, smoking habits, diabetes, and body mass index, the results showed that men with periodontal disease had a 63% higher risk of developing pancreatic cancer compared to those reporting no periodontal disease.

"Most convincing was our finding that never-smokers had a two-fold increase in risk of pancreatic cancer," said Michaud.

According to Michaud, one explanation for the correlation is inflammation itself. "Individuals with periodontal disease have elevated serum biomarkers of systemic inflammation, such as C-reactive protein, and these may somehow contribute to the promotion of cancer cells," she said.

Periodontal disease may also lead to increased pancreatic cancer because individuals with periodontal disease have higher levels of oral bacteria and carcinogenic nitrosamines in their oral cavity. Prior studies have shown that nitrosamines and gastric acidity may play a role in pancreatic cancer.

Other links have been made between pancreatic cancer and cigarette smoking, obesity, type-2 diabetes, and insulin resistance; more than 30,000 Americans are expected to die from the disease this year.

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