Jan. 16, 2007 -- Gum disease can more than double a person's risk of pancreatic cancer, a Harvard study shows.
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.
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 Cancer Institute.