As if we did not need another reason to protect ourselves from gum disease and periodontitis, there has been yet another life-threatening condition linked to this entirely preventable disease: pancreatic cancer. Pancreatic cancer kills an estimated 40,500 people in the United States annually, making it the fourth leading cause of cancer-related deaths. How can an oral disease lead to cancer in a gland in the digestive system?
What is Pancreatic Cancer?
The pancreas is located near the stomach and the small intestine and plays two major roles. The exocrine pancreas releases enzymes that play a major role in the digestion of food and the endocrine pancreas produces key hormones including insulin. Pancreatic cancer typically starts in the pancreatic ducts, where it is connected to the rest of the digestive system via the common bile duct. Because the pancreas is difficult to monitor with imaging technology, it is rarely caught early and so the five-year survival rate is only 5%.
A Long List of Diseases
Pancreatic cancer is just one of a long list of diseases that recently have become linked with periodontitis, other conditions include diabetes, heart attacks, and prostatitis. Researchers at NYU Langone’s Laura and Isaac Perlmutter Cancer Center presented their findings at the American Association for Cancer Research meeting in New Orleans. For their study, they compared bacterial mouthwash samples from 361 American men and women who had developed pancreatic cancer and 371 Americans of similar age, gender, and ethnicity who did not develop the disease. They found that those had signs of P. gingivalis, a bacteria that causes gum disease, in their mouthwash samples were 59% more likely to develop pancreatic cancer. Additionally, those patients with A. actinomycetemcomitans, which is commonly associated with advanced aggressive periodontitis, were 119% more likely to develop pancreatic cancer.
Oral Health and Overall Health
While the researchers have yet to definitely link causality between periodontitis and pancreatic cancer, all signs seem to be pointing in that direction. The fact is, our oral health is intrinsically linked to our overall health. Also, those who are living with periodontitis are more likely to engage in unhealthy behaviors, such as smoking. With that being said, it really does work both ways. Engaging in healthy behaviors, such as eating healthy, avoiding sugary food and drink, exercise, and even simply getting some sun can go a long way towards protecting the health of our teeth and gums.
If you or a loved one think you might have gum disease it is important that you visit a dentist as soon as possible. For those who live in the Austin area, Dr. Matthews offers the Perio Protect Method® which eliminates the bacteria associated with gum disease and periodontitis. Gum disease doesn’t wait and neither should you. Give us a call at (512) 520-0606 to schedule an appointment at Dan Matthews, DDS today.