Healthy Gums May Prevent Pancreatic Cancer, New Drug Could Treat It

Perhaps one of the major issues with the study is that many of the patients were treated in small community practices. While this lends a "real world" quality to the study, it raises questions about the consistency of the surgeries and the quality of the examinations the patients received.

That said, however, the results of the study suggest that gemcitabine, as a single drug, has value in the adjuvant therapy of this otherwise deadly disease.

Dental Care Could Spell Prevention for Pancreatic Cancer

Another study appearing in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute suggests a lifestyle intervention that may help reduce your risk of pancreatic cancer.

We know that risk factors for pancreatic cancer include cigarette smoking and possibly diabetes and obesity.

Encouraged by other information that suggests gum inflammation (periodontal disease) and tooth loss may also be associated in some way with an increased risk of pancreatic cancer, researchers from Harvard University and the University of Puerto Rico looked at a large database of information to find out whether there was any evidence of such a connection.

Dr. Len Lichtenfeld is deputy chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society.

The theory may appear farfetched, but there has also been recent interest in a possible link between gum disease and coronary artery disease, based on the theory that gum disease may lead to increased levels of inflammation throughout our bodies.

Why this would increase the risk of pancreatic cancer is unknown, although we know that chronic pancreatitis -- an inflammation of the pancreas that can at times be severe and life-threatening -- is associated with a significantly increased risk of developing cancer of the pancreas.

Could this same gum disease cause inflammation-related disease in our pancreas, and increase the risk of cancer?

The answer, according to this report, is a possible "yes."

In this study of 51,529 male health professionals, 216 men were diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

All of these men had been followed through surveys for many years. One of the questions they were asked was whether they had any history of gum disease or tooth loss.

When the researchers compared the answers of the men who had developed pancreatic cancer to those who had not, they found that the risk of developing the disease was 64 percent greater in the men who had gum disease.

If a participant had tooth loss within the previous four years, their risk of developing pancreatic cancer was 2.7 times greater than another man who had not lost a tooth during that time period.

What this means in practical terms is uncertain.

If you are someone who is interested in doing something positive for your health, such as not smoking, remaining physically active, and maintaining a healthy body weight to reduce your risk of cancer and other chronic diseases, then taking care of your teeth may be one more part of that total package.

Dr. Len Lichtenfeld is deputy chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society.

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