Gum disease, which affects more than half of all Americans, has been linked to stroke, diabetes and other ailments. According to recent research from the Harvard Medical School involving more than 51,000 men pancreatic cancer is also linked to gum disease.
Pancreatic cancer, a leading cause of cancer deaths, is elusive, with vague symptoms that often lead to late diagnosis. It is an extremely difficult cancer to treat and little is known about what causes it.
“Men who had reported periodontal disease had a 64 percent higher risk of pancreatic cancer compared to those who didn’t have periodontal disease,” said the study’s lead author, Dominique S. Michaud.
The study provides the first strong evidence that gum disease may increase pancreatic cancer risk, added Michaud, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston.
The pancreas, a gland behind the stomach, makes pancreatic juice, which helps break down fats and proteins in foods. The gland also produces the hormone insulin, which helps regulate blood sugar.
One possible explanation for the results is that inflammation from periodontal disease may promote cancer of the pancreas. “Individuals with periodontal disease have elevated serum biomarkers of systemic inflammation, such as C-reactive protein, and these may somehow contribute to the promotion of cancer cells,” she said.
Another explanation, according to Michaud, is that periodontal disease could lead to increased pancreatic carcinogenesis because individuals with periodontal disease have higher levels of oral bacteria and higher levels of nitrosamines, which are carcinogens, in their oral cavity. Prior studies have shown that nitrosamines and gastric acidity may play a role in pancreatic cancer.
In their 16-year study, Michaud and her colleagues followed 51,529 men who participated in the Health Professional Follow-Up Study, which began in 1986. The researchers controlled for the effects of smoking.
“Our study was a prospective study of health professionals,” Michaud said. “Not MDs, but dentists, podiatrists, veterinarians.”
“People with periodontal disease have higher blood levels of C-reactive protein, an inflammatory marker that has been associated with heart disease,” Michaud said. “Periodontal disease is also linked to heart disease in some studies.” The inflammation may somehow contribute to the promotion of cancer cells, she added.
“Pancreatic cancer is one of those diseases we don’t know much about,” she said. “Once you get it, the survival rate is very low.”
This research “confirms that inflammation may play an important role in pancreatic cancer,” she said.
According to Michaud, the findings should also “give consumers one more reason to really take care of their teeth and their oral health. I think that’s really the message.
Periodontitis is a silent disease. People with the disease rarely experience pain and may not be aware of the problem. Healthy habits and good oral hygiene are critical in preventing gum disease. A periodontal examination by a general dentist twice a year should reveal any incipient or progressive problems. A full mouth series of x-rays is advised. This will alert the dentist to early bone loss and other disorders of the oral cavity.
Dr. Parvin Carter has over 30 years of experience in Dentistry; she is a Preferred Provider of Invisalign and the director of A Redding Invisalign Center. She received her degree of Doctor of Dental Surgery, from Indiana University Dental School, in 1982, after which she immediately opened her private practice.
In July 1990 she received fellowship award from academy of General Dentistry. This award requires 600 hours of continuing education and passing required examination. In July 2000 Dr. Carter received Mastership award from Academy of General Dentistry. This is the highest award for continuing education. This award requires 800hours of participation in dentistry specialties. According to the Journal of the Academy of General Dentistry, only 1% of US dentists achieve this high level of advancement.
Dr. Carter’s expertises are:
Invisalign, orthodontics, advanced TMJ treatment, oral surgery, sleep Disorders, placement of implants, restorations of cosmetic dentistry, whole mouth rehabilitation, fixed and removable prosthodontic, periodontics (soft tissue management), tooth and implant supported over dentures, endodontics, molars and anterior.