March 3, 2007

Gum Disease Associated With Pancreatic Cancer Risk

Having gum disease is associated with an increased risk of pancreatic cancer, according to a new study. However, the authors caution that further studies are necessary to determine whether the relationship is causal.

There are few known risk factors for pancreatic cancer, including cigarette smoking and chronic pancreatitis. The latter is marked by inflammation, suggesting that inflammation may be involved in the initiation or progression of pancreatic cancer. People with periodontal (gum) disease usually have high levels of certain markers of systemic inflammation. Two earlier studies had found an association between tooth loss (periodontitis is the primary cause of tooth loss in adults) and pancreatic cancer.

In the new study, Dominique S. Michaud, Sc.D., of the Harvard School of Public Health, and colleagues studied the relationship between periodontitis and tooth loss and the subsequent risk of pancreatic cancer in more than 50,000 men in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study. They found that a history of periodontal disease was associated with an increased risk of pancreatic cancer; 25 pancreatic cancer cases would be expected per 100,000 men, but having periodontal disease increased that rate to 61 per 100,000 men. Cumulative tooth loss was not associated with pancreatic cancer.

"Given our limited understanding of pancreatic cancer etiology, we believe that further investigation into this relation and the role of systemic inflammation in pancreatic carcinogenesis is warranted," the authors write.

Contact: Todd R. Datz, External Communications, Harvard School of Public Health


Other highlights in the Jan. 17 JNCI

Note: The Journal of the National Cancer Institute is published by Oxford University Press and is not affiliated with the National Cancer Institute. Attribution to the Journal of the National Cancer Institute is requested in all news coverage. Visit the Journal online at

Contact: Andrea Widener
Journal of the National Cancer Institute

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