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Link Found Between Periodontal Disease and Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer death in the U.S.; more than 30,000 Americans are expected to die from the disease this year.//

Pancreatic cancer is an extremely difficult cancer to treat and little is known about what causes it. One established risk factor in pancreatic cancer is cigarette smoking; other links have been made to obesity, diabetes type 2 and insulin resistance. In a new study, researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute found that periodontal disease was associated with an increased risk of cancer of the pancreas. The study will appear in the January 17, 2007 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

'Our study provides the first strong evidence that periodontal disease may increase the risk of pancreatic cancer. This finding is of significance as it may provide some new insights into the mechanism of this highly fatal disease,' said lead author Dominique Michaud, assistant professor of epidemiology at HSPH.

Periodontal disease is caused by bacterial infection and inflammation of the gums that over time causes loss of bone that supports the teeth; tooth loss is a consequence of severe periodontal disease. Two previous studies had found a link between tooth loss or periodontitis and pancreatic cancer, but one consisted of all smokers and the other did not control for smoking in the analysis, and therefore no firm conclusions could be drawn from these studies.

Data for the new study came from the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, which began in 1986 and includes 51,529 U.S. men working in the health professions. Participants respond to questionnaires about their health every two years. After analyzing the data, the researchers confirmed 216 cases of pancreatic cancer between 1986 and 2002; of those, 67 reported periodontal disease.

The results showed that, after adjusting for age, smoking, diabetes, body
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