What does the 12th most diagnosed cancer have to do with your oral health? A lot more than you may have realized. Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of death of all cancers and has claimed the lives of celebrities like Patrick Swayze and Steve Jobs.
A 2007 study of 50,000 men by the Harvard School of Public Health discovered that having periodontal disease increased your chance of being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer by as much as 64% as opposed to men with no history of gum disease. In addition, a 2012 study by researchers from Brown University, the Forsyth Institute and Harvard University discovered that high antibody levels of the bacteria that cause gum disease showed a person was twice as likely to contract pancreatic cancer.
Although it has not been concluded why there is a correlation between periodontal disease and pancreatic cancer, the connection is strong evidence that gum disease is not just an oral health problem.
Other risk factors for pancreatic cancer include:
- Being over 60 years old
- Family history
- Chronic pancreatitis
- Being of African-American descent or Ashkenazi Jew
- Diet high in processed food
With at least 70% of the American population having at least some form of gum disease, this is not a connection that should be ignored. The best way to protect your teeth and gums from periodontal disease is to practice a regular oral hygiene routine at home that includes brushing twice a day and flossing regularly. This, coupled with professional cleanings and exams every six months, will help you remove one risk factor from the equation.