Pancreatic cancer is one of the worst cancers, and a recent research study presented 19 April at the American Association for Cancer Research annual meeting in New Orleans suggests one way to help prevent this cancer— keep your gums healthy.
The pancreas is a gland, about 15 cm. long, that secretes hormones (most important is insulin) as well as digestive enzymes. One reason pancreatic cancer has such a bad outlook is that the pancreas is situated deep in the upper abdomen, behind the stomach. Because it is so deep, by the time a patient typically has symptoms, the cancer is already large. Only about 5% of pancreas cancer patients survive 5 years.
Other recent studies have suggested that gum infections could increase the risk of this cancer, confirmed by this current research. Carried out as part of an ongoing 10-year study by the National Cancer Institute (USA) and the American Cancer Society, the researchers analyzed oral bacteria in people who later developed pancreatic cancer compared with people who did not develop the cancer.
The results showed that the people who carried two specific bacteria in their mouths (Porphyromonas gingivalis and Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans) had a 50 to 59% higher risk of developing pancreatic cancer. These bacteria are found typically in people with poor oral care and gum disease. Smoking also appears to increase the risk of carrying these and other harmful bacteria in the mouth.
This research does not prove that gum disease causes pancreas cancer, but the suspicion is that the bacteria found in infected gums circulate in the body, and increase the overall degree of inflammation. This inflammation is thought to set the stage for developing various types of cancers.
This study gives us one more reason to take good care of our gums and teeth. Brushing, daily flossing, as well as periodic dental exams are all important. Other ways to lower the risk of pancreatic cancer is to avoid obesity, and to not smoke.
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