Gum Disease Ups Pancreatic Cancer Risk
Recent Tooth Loss Plus Gum Disease Nearly Triples Risk
Jan. 16, 2007 -- Gum disease can more than double a person's risk of
pancreatic cancer, a Harvard study shows.
In addition, people with a history of gum disease, plus recent tooth loss,
have a 2.7-fold higher risk of this fatal cancer than people
without gum disease or tooth loss.
Previous studies have linked gum disease to pancreatic cancer. But those
studies could not control for smoking, which contributes to both gum disease
That was not a problem for Dominique S. Michaud, ScD, and colleagues at
Harvard School of Public Health. The researchers analyzed data from 51,529 male
health professionals -- a large number of whom were nonsmokers -- who were
followed for 16 years.
Michaud's team found that, overall, study subjects who reported gum disease
were 64% more likely to have pancreatic cancer.
Among nonsmokers, those with gum disease were more than twice as likely to
have pancreatic cancer.
The worse the gum disease, the higher the risk. Tooth loss greatly increased
cancer risk for the men with periodontal, or gum, disease.
It is not clear why gum disease is linked to cancer risk.
Michaud and colleagues suggest that long-standing gum infections trigger a
body-wide immune response: inflammation. Inflamed tissues give off chemical
signals that promote tumor growth.
The findings appear in the Jan. 17 issue of the Journal of the National