Oral Bacteria Linked to Pancreatic Cancer

By Richard Asa @RickAsa
July 19, 2017
01 May 2014 --- Close up of woman's smile --- Image by © JGI/Jamie Grill/Blend Images/Corbis

Scientists have found the first direct evidence between two kinds of bacteria in oral health and the risk of you developing pancreatic cancer.

Researchers have found that two kinds of bacteria linked to periodontal disease are also associated with increased risk of your developing pancreatic cancer.

“Our study offers the first direct evidence that specific changes in the microbial mix in the mouth—the oral microbiome—represent a likely risk factor for pancreatic cancer,” study coauthor Jiyoung Ahn, PhD, of New York University said. “These bacterial changes in the mouth could potentially show us who is most at risk of developing pancreatic cancer.”

Ahn, an associate professor at NYU Langone Medical Centre and associate director of population sciences at the Perlmutter Cancer Center, announced the findings in a statement during the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research.

Previous studies had already suggested an association between poor oral health and pancreatic cancer risk, but it was wasn’t clear whether certain changes in the oral environment could be definitively linked with pancreatic cancer, according to The Scientist. For the 10-year study, NYU researchers analyzed the bacterial contents in mouthwash samples from 361 Americans who later developed pancreatic cancer. They also examined 371 matched controls.

“We found that Porphyromonas gingivalis and Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans, two species of bacteria linked to periodontal disease, were associated with a more than 50 percent increased risk of pancreatic cancer,” Ahn said in the statement. “These data do not show a causal relationship, but they are the first steps in understanding a potential new risk factor for pancreatic cancer, which is vital if we are to develop new approaches for pancreatic cancer prevention and early detection in the future.”

Pancreatic cancer is difficult to diagnose and treat. It causes more than 40,000 deaths a year in the U.S. and more than 95 percent of people diagnosed die within five years, writes Mary Brophy Marcus.

"We don't have a lot of risk factors for pancreatic cancer, so the more we learn, the better," Alison Klein, MD an associate professor at the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins Medicine told Brophy Marcus.

"What's kind of new about it is the fact that they've actually looked at oral samples and connections between pancreatic cancer risk and the oral biome," said Klein, a pancreatic cancer risk expert not involved in the study.

Previous research discovered links between oral bacteria and cardiovascular disease, infective endocarditis, bacterial pneumonia, low birth weight, colorectal cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, and diabetes. All these connections argue for proper oral hygiene on a daily basis and warn against your neglecting your oral health.

If further research bears out a causal link between oral bacterial and certain diseases, “it seems justified to state that good oral health is important not only to prevent oral disease but also to maintain good general health,” according to one study.

Your mouth is home to bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoa. Bacteria by far comprise the majority of microbes in your mouth. It’s been estimated that there are over 100 million in every milliliter of saliva, from more than 600 different species. Only about 250 have actually been identified.


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April 08, 2020

Reviewed By:  

Christopher Nystuen, MD, MBA