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A 10-Year Study Shows Specific Mouth Bacteria May Significantly Increase The Risk of Pancreatic Cancer

Tony Subia
April 20, 2016

Compiled from a New York University School of Medicine Press Release

A 10-year study finds that the presence of certain bacteria found in the mouth may reveal a significant increased risk of developing pancreatic cancer. Testing could enable earlier detection when the cancer is more treatable. The study was led by researchers at the New York University Langone Medical Center and its Laura and Isaac Perlmutter Medical Centre. Study results were presented at the annual meeting of the Association or Cancer Research held in New Orleans on April 19, 2016.

Pancreatic cancer patients are known to be susceptible to gum disease, cavities, and poor oral health in general, say the study authors. That vulnerability led the research team to search for direct links between the makeup of bacteria driving oral disease and subsequent development of pancreatic cancer, a disease which often escapes early diagnosis.

“Our study offers the first direct evidence that specific changes in the microbial mix in the mouth — the oral microbiome — represent a likely risk factor for pancreatic cancer along with other major risk factors including cigarette smoking, onset type 2 diabetes not associated with weight gain, chronic pancreatitis, genetic family history, and advancing age” says senior investigator and epidemiologist Jiyoung Ahn, PhD.

Specifically, the researchers found that men and women whose oral microbiomes included Porphyromonas gingivalis had an overall 59 percent greater risk of developing pancreatic cancer than those whose microbiomes did not contain the bacterium. Similarly, oral microbiomes containing Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans were at least 50 percent more likely overall to develop the disease.

Doctoral student and study lead investigator XiaoZhou Fan, MS, says both types of bacteria have been tied in the past to such dental diseases as periodontitis, or inflammation of the gums.

“These bacterial changes in the mouth could potentially show us who is most at risk of developing pancreatic cancer,” adds Dr. Jiyoung Ahn an associate professor at NYU Langone and associate director of population sciences at the Perlmutter Cancer Center.at the New York University School of Medicine.

In another study published last month, Ahn and her colleagues showed that cigarette smoking was linked to dramatic, although reversible, changes in the amount and mix of bacteria in the oral microbiome. But she cautions that further research is needed to determine if there is any cause-and-effect relationship, or how or whether such smoking-related changes alter the immune system or otherwise trigger cancer-causing activities in the pancreas.

For the new study, researchers compared bacterial contents in mouthwash samples from 361 American men and women who have been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer with samples from 371 people of similar age, gender, and ethnic origin who did not have pancreatic cancer. All were initially healthy and participating in larger ongoing cancer-risk studies led by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the American Cancer Society. Mouthwash samples were obtained at the beginning of each investigation, after which participants were monitored for nearly a decade to determine who got pancreatic cancer.

Pancreatic cancer research has been been aware of a link between pancreatic cancer and gum disease. A study in 2008 identified that tooth loss and periodontal disease is associated with a 50 per cent risk of pancreatic cancer, while a study in 2010 found a doubling of risk of pancreatic cancer for periodontal disease. The biological mechanism for this association is not currently known.

This recent study could potentially identify the biological mechanism for the association, and potentially move towards sourcing a test that could identify pancreatic cancer at an early stage. We look forward to seeing if further studies are carried out.

The Bottom Line To Minimizing Risk of Pancreatic Cancer

There are many factors that increase the risk of getting pancreatic cancer. There are risks that are controllable and risks beyond your control. There is no easy method of early detection yet alone a method of prevention or cure of pancreatic cancer. Although most diagnosed cases result from random bad luck, practicing a healthy lifestyle will minimize the risks. Per the above article practicing a good regimen of dental hygiene is extremely important.

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