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Pancreatic Cancer and Oral Health

It is five years since Apple founder Steve Jobs died (5th October 2011) from Pancreatic Cancer. It’s a cancer which roughly 9,000 people are diagnosed with each year in the UK and one which sees just 3% of those diagnosed survive for five years making it the fifth most common cause of cancer death.

Most cancers have seen a huge increase in five-year survival rates since the 1970’s, with breast cancer, increasing from 50% to 80%. Pancreatic Cancer however has stayed exactly the same at 3%.

What’s the link with oral health?

The amount of oral bacteria in the mouth may be associated with the risk of pancreatic cancer according to two separate studies earlier this year.

In a study of more than 800 European adults, Dr Dominique Michaud (of Brown University) and colleagues found that high antibody levels for one of the more infectious periodontal bacterium strains (Porphyromonas gingivalis) were associated with a two-fold risk for pancreatic cancer. In addition, subjects with high levels of antibodies for some kinds of harmless oral bacteria (usually formed in healthy, well-maintained mouths) were associated with a 45-percent lower risk of pancreatic cancer—meaning the antibodies could have a protective effect.

Other research has identified links between periodontal disease and pancreatic cancer, but Dr. Michaud’s paper is the first study to test whether antibodies for oral bacteria are indicators of pancreatic cancer risk and the first to associate the immune response to harmless bacteria with pancreatic cancer risk. The physiological mechanism linking oral bacteria and pancreatic cancer remains unknown, but the study strengthens the suggestion that there is one.

What does this mean?

We never make any direct comments on the numerous research articles we publish in our blogs; our role is to make patients aware of any issue which it has been claimed has a connection to oral health.

With recent research suggesting poor oral health links to an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and having a stroke, we have one pretty obvious piece of advice. Keep your mouth healthy and have regular dental health checks. Frequent Hygienist appointments are perhaps the most effective way of preventing gum disease or oral health issues.

For research links or more information on either this research or Pancreatic Cancer please read the following articles: