Germs In Your Mouth Could Be Deadly

Pancreatic cancer associated with oral bacteria

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) The germs in your mouth may play a role in heart disease risks. That’s been known for a while. Now, there’s evidence that these bacteria may promote or reduce cancer risks.

Researchers have found an association between bacteria in the mouth and the risk of pancreatic cancer.

Conversely, harmless bacteria appear to lower risk of this dangerous cancer.

The link was found by studying levels of antibodies in the blood. Antibodies fight off foreign invaders.

"Floss every day."

Brown University investigators studied blood samples from 800+ European adults.

High levels of antibodies for a type of infectious bacteria found in the gums - Porphyromonas gingivalis - were associated with a two-fold risk of the cancer. On the other hand, having a lot of antibodies for various harmless bacteria lowered the risk by 45 percent.

“The relative increase in risk from smoking is not much bigger than two,” said corresponding author, Brown University epidemiologist Dominique Michaud, ScD. “If this is a real effect size of two, then potential impact of this finding is really significant.”

The researchers looked at medical records and blood samples collected from the Imperial College-led European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition Study. More than ½ million people in 10 countries participated in this study.

From this database, investigators selected 405 people who had developed only pancreatic cancer. Another 416 healthy individuals served as comparison controls.

Blood samples were measured for antibody levels for 25 harmful and harmless antibodies. Other pancreatic risk factors such as smoking, diabetes and body mass index (BMI) were controlled.

These samples had been taken as much as a decade before the cancer was diagnosed. Therefore, it’s not likely the cancer was causing the antibody levels.

dailyRx News asked pancreatic cancer specialist, James Farrell, MD, what he thought of these findings.

“This recent study now adds to the increasing interest in studying the connection between host bacteria and the development of human disease,” said Dr. Farrell, who is director of the University of California Los Angeles Medical Center Endoscopic Ultrasound Division of Digestive Diseases.

“Prior epidemiologic data and recent oral microbial studies have suggested a link between oral bacterial disease and the development of pancreatic cancer. It is unclear if this is a cause or effect. This current study suggests that it may be a causal link,” said Dr. Farrell, who was not involved in this study.

Dr. Michaud said, “This is not an established risk factor. But I feel more confident that there is something going on. It’s something we need to understand better.”

This study appeared in the journal Gut.

The National Cancer Institute funded this research. No conflicts of interest were disclosed.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
September 19, 2012
Last Updated:
September 27, 2012