Untreated gum disease hosts lethal pancreatic cancer cells

It’s no secret that pancreatic cancer is lethal, due in part to the difficulty in detecting it in the earliest, potentially most treatable stages.

For years, scientists have been looking for ways to find markers, as well as identifying risk factors, that could lead to earlier detection.

One potential risk factor gaining significant attention is periodontal disease, which affects about half of the U.S. population to some degree, resulting in inflammation, bleeding and bone and tooth loss.

“For years we thought that periodontal disease was simply a localized infection of the gums, but more evidence is showing that it can potentially be linked to a host of systemic conditions,” explains Boston-based periodontist Terrence J. Griffin, DMD, who serves as president of the American Academy of Periodontology.

Although he stresses that much more research needs to be done and the links have not been established as “causal,” periodontal disease shows “strong connections” with many illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes, Griffin said.

“But we’re also learning more and more about periodontitis’ potential association with inflammatory arthritis and atrial fibrillation and even lung infections for hospitalized patients who have been intubated,” he said. “There has been some significant work that to me, at least, has been pretty astounding in terms of its potential link to an increased risk of pancreatic cancer.”

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