Pancreatic cancer is currently the 4th most prominent cancer in the U.S, with an estimated 30,000 people dying from it this year alone. Current understanding of the causes and mechanisms behind pancreatic cancer is minimal and there are few treatment options available. Pancreatic cancer can grow for considerable time without presenting identifiable symptoms. Therefore it is frequently not found until late stages, often after metastasizing to other organs. Late detection makes this cancer particularly difficult to treat. Ninety-five percent of individuals diagnosed with pancreatic cancer are not expected to live beyond 5 years.
While little is known about the direct causes of pancreatic cancer, key risk factors such as smoking, type 2 diabetes, and obesity have been identified as significant risk factors. In addition to these, recent studies have suggested that periodontal disease may also cause increased risk of pancreatic cancer.
Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute cited, in the a January 2007 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, research including two different studies linking periodontal disease to pancreatic cancer. Study results showed that men with a history of periodontal disease had a 63% greater risk of developing pancreatic cancer than those with no history. The study also found these results to be significant when adjusted for shared risk factors such as smoking and socioeconomic status.
Lead author, Dr. Dominique Michaud, offered potential explanations of the mechanisms connecting these two diseases. Dr. Michaud suggested that inflammation caused by periodontal disease may drive systemic inflammation, potentially increasing the body’s production of chemicals linked to the creation of cancer cells. Another possible explanation is that the oral bacteria and toxins associated with periodontal disease are related to the production of pancreatic carcinogens.
The mechanisms offered by Dr. Michaud are still only theoretical explanations. Considerably more research is needed to fully comprehend the complex interactions between these serious conditions. While researchers seek deeper understanding, these findings underscore the importance of proper oral hygiene and care as it may help reduce your risk of developing one of today’s most fatal cancers.