Gum Disease Linked to Pancreatic Cancer

Research linking systemic illness (diseases affecting the entire body) with periodontal (gum) disease continues to come to our attention.

In this particular study, originally published in Gut, an official publication of the British Society of Gastroenterology, researchers from the Institute of Biomedical and Oral Research at the Hebrew University-Hadassah Faculty of Dental Medicine reported a relationship between gum disease and the acceleration of pancreatic cancer.

In the study, oral bacteria were applied to the gums of healthy mice and was then detected in the pancreas. While the exact relationship isn’t totally defined for humans, the researchers discussed “a causal role for P. gingivitis (the pathogenic bacteria linked to periodontal disease) in pancreatic cancer development in mice.” Other past studies, like this nationwide dental health registry from Sweden, found a link between a pancreatic cancer risk and periodontitis, a serious form of gum disease which affects both bone and soft tissue that support our teeth.

Taking Care of Your Oral Health is So Important

Overall, there’s strong supporting evidence linking your oral health in the mouth, “the gateway to the body” and serious issues like pancreatic cancer. The list keeps growing. Gum disease has been studied in terms of links to systemic disease including:

  • Diabetes
  • Premature birth and low birthweight
  • Alzheimer’s/dementia
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Respiratory diseases
  • Heart disease
  • Some cancers
  • Kidney disease

Pancreatic Cancer is Difficult to Detect Early On

According to the Hirschberg Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research, pancreatic cancer reportedly has the highest mortality rate of all major cancers. Yet the disease is difficult to detect early because symptoms aren’t often obvious. It’s the 3rd leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S. according to MD Anderson Cancer Center with slightly higher numbers reported in men than women and a typical range of age for detection between individuals 65-75 years old. Less than 20% of cases are caught before the disease has already spread to surrounding areas.

Other known risk factors for pancreatic cancer include:

  • Obesity
  • Family history of pancreatic cancer or pancreatitis
  • Personal history of diabetes
  • Smoking
  • Excessive alcohol consumption

What Can You Do?

In its earliest form, called gingivitis, gum disease is not only treatable but reversible, one of the key reasons we urge individuals to try to improve their home oral health maintenance (twice daily brushing and flossing). Regular visits to your dental professionals for cleaning may suffice to reverse the progress of the disease.

Once gum disease has advanced to later stages, we will help you manage the disease to help you keep your teeth and maintain oral health, but the gum disease is not reversible. If not treated, you could ultimately lose your teeth.

Check out this brief Cleveland Clinic overview on the stages of gum disease. Then make an appointment with one of our periodontal specialists at one of our two practice locations – NE Philadelphia OR AMBLER, Pa. Your mouth (and body) will thank you!