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Gum disease linked to pancreatic cancer

Long-standing gum infections trigger a body-wide immune response, inflammation, says a study.

india Updated: Jan 22, 2007 17:58 IST

People suffering from gum disease are likely to face the risk of developing cancer of the pancreas, an organ in the digestive system, and the worse the gum disease, the higher the risk, says a study.

Gum disease is a common dental problem that may result in tooth loss.

Dominique S. Michaud, Sc.D., along with colleagues at the Harvard School of Public Health, US, analysed data from 51,529 male health professionals -- a large number of whom were non-smokers -- who were followed for 16 years.

Michaud's team found that, overall, study subjects who reported gum disease were 64 per cent more likely to have pancreatic cancer, reported online edition of health magazine WebMD.

Among non-smokers, those with gum disease were more than twice as likely to have pancreatic cancer, the researchers said. The risk is more in people who lost tooth due to disease.

People with a history of gum disease, recent tooth loss, have a 2.7-fold higher risk of this fatal cancer than people without gum disease or tooth loss, according to the finding appeared in the Jan 17 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Previous studies have linked gum disease to pancreatic cancer. But those studies could not control for smoking, which contributes to both gum disease and cancer.

Although it is not clear why gum disease is linked to cancer risk, the researchers suggest that long-standing gum infections trigger a body-wide immune response: inflammation. Inflamed tissues give off chemical signals that promote tumour growth.