In a new study, researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute have found that periodontal disease is associated with an increased risk of cancer of the pancreas.
Two previous studies had found a link between tooth loss or periodontitis and pancreatic cancer, but one consisted of all smokers and the other did not control for smoking in the analysis, and therefore no firm conclusions could be drawn from these studies.
Data for the new study came from the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, which began in 1986 and includes 51,529 American men working in the health professions. Participants responded to questionnaires about their health every 2 years. After analyzing the data, the researchers confirmed 216 cases of pancreatic cancer between 1986 and 2002; of those, 67 reported periodontal disease.
The results showed that, after adjusting for age, smoking, diabetes, body mass index, and a number of other factors, men with periodontal disease had a 63% higher risk of developing pancreatic cancer compared to those reporting no periodontal disease.
One possible explanation for the results, according to the researchers, is that inflammation from periodontal disease may promote cancer of the pancreas.
Another explanation is that periodontal disease could lead to increased pancreatic carcinogenesis because individuals with periodontal disease have higher levels of oral bacteria and higher levels of nitrosamines, which are carcinogens, in their oral cavity. Prior studies have shown that nitrosamines and gastric acidity may play a role in pancreatic cancer.
The researchers believe that further studies should be done to investigate the role of inflammation from periodontal disease in pancreatic cancer. However, the underlying mechanisms for this association are speculative at this point.
[www.sciencedaily.com, January 17, 2007]