Periodontal disease is an independent risk factor for pancreatic cancer among senior citizens, according to a new study published in The Journal of Cancer Research.
The study, which included over 200,000 people with and without periodontal disease, showed a significantly increased risk for this deadly form of cancer, which will claim the lives of more than 40,000 people this year in the United States alone.
“Further analysis showed that PD remained an independent risk factor for pancreatic cancer after adjusting for diabetes, hyperlipidemia, allergies, viral hepatitis, peptic ulcer, pancreatitis, COPD (as a proxy for cigarette smoking) and alcoholic-related conditions (as a proxy for alcohol drinking).”
The study authors found that this increased risk was only observed in those over 65 years old. However, previous research has linked oral pathogens to pancreatic cancer—particularly among men, who face a whopping 54% increased risk for the disease. A 2012 study from Brown University linked Porphyromonas gingivalis—a pathogen tied to increased risk of orodigestive cancer mortality—to the development and progression of pancreatic cancer.
This is substantial yet unsurprising to anyone who has been paying attention to the mounting evidence for oral health’s affect on risk for chronic disease like heart attack, stroke, diabetes, oral cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease. Oral pathogens’ role in the development of kidney and blood cancers has also been noted, highlighting the importance of monitoring patients’ oral microbial bioburden when addressing risk for disease.
Many people remain unaware of the degree to which their oral health affects their risk for chronic disease. Never before has it been so important to expand awareness of the oral-systemic health link and the dental team’s role in reducing risk.