Gum disease drives pancreatic cancer development research study


Are oral pathogens the culprit?

It is troubling that pancreatic cancer is on the rise in the United States, and is currently the fourth leading cause of cancer-related deaths worldwide.2 The high mortality and economic burden this cancer leaves in its path warrants continued exploration of its etiology and reduction of all possible risk factors.

Is it possible that prevention of periodontal disease might be key to the prevention of pancreatic cancer? While intervention studies on humans to prove that theory have yet to be conducted, there is robust data that seems to implicate specific periodontal pathogens raising the risk for, and most likely contributing to, the development of pancreatic cancer. So, which pathogens? As with most other oral-systemic associations, Porphyromonas gingivalis shows up on the scene as a keystone pathogen, which basically means you don’t need a high volume to wreak havoc inside or outside the oral cavity.

One reason P. gingivalis is detrimental to health is because this bacterium can invade epithelial and endothelial tissues, hide from the immune system, and orchestrate dysbiosis (i.e., microbial imbalance) that promotes inflammation. Fusobacterium nucleatum and P. gingivalis have both been shown to stimulate tumorigenesis and tumor proliferation in oral cancer,3 so it is no surprise they appear to be important players in the development of pancreatic cancer.

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