VITAL EVIDENCE

Gum Disease, Pancreatic Cancer May Be Linked

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Scientists have new evidence that gum disease may be linked to more serious health problems, in this case pancreatic cancer.

The researchers stressed that the findings need to be confirmed and explored by additional research, but it is not the first time that periodontal disease has been associated with other serious illness. Previous research suggested that people with infected gums may be more prone to heart disease.

Over time, the bacterial infection that causes gum disease can also cause loss of the bone that anchors the teeth, and the inflammation from the infection may set the stage for other serious diseases.

Pancreatic cancer strikes more than 33,000 Americans each year and kills more than 30,000, making it the fourth-leading cause of cancer death.

For the study, Dominique S. Michaud of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston and colleagues analyzed data from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, which has gathered data about a wide range of health issues from 51,529 American men.

After taking other factors into consideration, such as age, smoking, diabetes and body mass index, the researchers found that the men with gum disease were 63 percent more likely to develop pancreatic cancer than those without gum disease. Non-smokers with gum disease were twice as likely to develop the hard-to-treat cancer as those with healthy gums.

"Our study provides the first strong evidence that periodontal disease may increase the risk of pancreatic cancer," said Michaud, who reported the findings in today's issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

-- Rob Stein


© 2007 The Washington Post Company