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Periodontal Disease Linked to Pancreatic Cancer

Periodontal disease, or gum disease, has been linked to several other medical problems including cancer. A recent study has found that two types of periodontal disease-causing oral bacteria create a greater risk of developing pancreatic cancer building on other studies which have also shown links between the two.

The significance of this study is exemplified by the fact that 40,000 Americans die annually from pancreatic cancer and 50,000 people will be diagnosed with the disease this year. The disease is often not diagnosed until its advanced stages so less than 10 percent of those diagnosed won’t survive past five years.

The Study

The reason for the study was that patients that suffer from pancreatic cancer are known to have gum disease, cavities, and general poor oral health. This led the authors of the study to search for any potential links between periodontal disease and pancreatic cancer. The large-scale and long-term study was presented at the 2016 American Association for Cancer Research meeting.

The study was conducted by researchers from New York University Langone’s Laura and Isaac Perlmutter Cancer Center and was funded by the National Cancer Institute. The researchers collected saliva samples from the participants to use for the study. They then sequenced the DNA of 361 people that had developed pancreatic cancer and samples from 371 healthy people.

To ensure that the results were based purely on periodontal disease and no other potential effects, participants were studied and compared with those of the same age, race, sex, smoking status, alcohol use, body mass index, and whether they had diabetes. All of these factors have previously been shown to have an effect on periodontal disease.


The study found that the participants having Porphyromonas gingivalis in their oral microbiome had a 59 percent greater risk of developing pancreatic cancer. Similarly, those with Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans in the oral microbiome saw a 50 percent increase in risk of developing pancreatic cancer. Because the increased risk remained the same when they excluded pancreatic cancer cases that had occurred less than two years after the samples were obtained, it’s unlikely that oral microbiome dysbiosis occurred after the development of the cancer. This means that the bacteria are more likely the cause of the cancer rather than developing the already existing cancer.

While periodontal disease-causing pathogens were found in the oral microbiomes of the participants in both groups, P gingivalis was shown to be much more prevalent in those that had developed pancreatic cancer with 26 percent of the controlled group having P gingivalis and 35 percent of the cancer patients having gum disease. Similarly, four percent of the controlled group showed A actinomycetemcomitans and nine percent of the pancreatic cancer group showed signs of the bacteria.

The author of the study says that it’s still too early to say that these pathogens are a specific cause of pancreatic cancer as the systemic inflammation or other processes occurring within the body due to periodontal disease could have been the cause. To confirm their hypothesis and the study’s results, more studies are planned in the near future. Later this year, they will inject P gingivalis and A actinomycetemcomitans into the pancreases of mice that have a genetically engineered susceptibility to pancreatic cancer. Through this upcoming study, researchers will be able to discover how periodontitis-causing pathogens may influence the formation of the pancreatic cancer.

Over the past few years, periodontal disease has been shown to have an effect on several more serious diseases such as diabetes, esophageal cancer, and heart disease. While this specific study doesn’t provide evidence that periodontal disease has a direct effect on pancreatic cancer, it did find that if it does, the effect would be on the existence of the cancer rather than on the development of those that had already contracted it. This is a huge advancement over previous studies looking for similar results.

Studies in recent years have shown that practicing good oral hygiene can prevent more serious diseases from occurring improving your overall health. And if you do have gum disease, that having the disease treated may also prevent the possibility of some of these diseases. So if you have signs of periodontal disease, come to Vero Implants and Periodontics for the appropriate treatment.