Poor Oral Health and Pancreatic Cancer: How They May Be Linked

Pancreatic cancer is a rare but serious cancer. The causes of this dangerous disease are largely unknown, but researchers have recently uncovered a potential risk factor: Oral bacteria. Although the link between poor oral health and an increased risk of pancreatic cancer is not fully established, there does appear to be a relationship that researchers and dentists alike want to understand better. Bacteria associated with poor oral health has previously been linked to heart disease, respiratory problems, and low-birth weight pregnancies, so discovering it that affects the body systemically in other ways is not surprising. Here are the facts about this link.

Studies Linking Oral Health and Pancreatic Cancer

A 2018 study published in the journal Gut found that the antibodies that are produced by several different types of oral bacteria are associated with an increased risk of pancreatic cancer. Antibodies associated with Porphyromonas gingivalis in particular appear to double the risk of oral cancer. The study was performed using a group of 800 adults in Europe. These results mirror results from studies published in the British Journal of Cancer and the International Journal of Cancer. In these studies, links between an increase in oral bacteria and pancreatic cancer were also discovered.

Reasons for the Link

The mechanisms that are responsible for the potential link between poor oral health and pancreatic cancer are not known. However, researchers suspect that the inflammation triggered by bacteria in the mouth could be to blame. Some of the antibodies in the bacteria that are common in the mouth may also diminish the immune response that protects against cancer.

Steps You Can Take

Poor oral health doesn’t just lead to cavities, gum disease, and tooth loss. It can also have significant repercussions for your overall health. Sticking to a diligent oral hygiene routine and seeing your dentist regularly for preventive care can help to protect your teeth, gums, and systemic health.

John R. Carson, DDS provides comprehensive dental care, including cleanings, exams, and preventive care. To learn more about our practice or to make an appointment for a dental cleaning in Tucson, please call (520) 514-7203.


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