Gum disease may be linked to pancreatic cancer

In collaboration with the Press Association

Severe gum disease may increase the risk of pancreatic cancer by as much as 63 per cent, a study by the Harvard School of Public Health has suggested.

Two previous studies have linked periodontal gum disease and pancreatic cancer. However, these did not take other risk factors into account, such as smoking, which is linked to the disease.

The researchers said that it wasn't clear exactly how periodontal disease is linked to the cancer.

They suspect that it could be due to tissue inflammation, or higher levels of mouth bacteria found among people with gum disease.

Because pancreatic cancer is relatively rare compared to gum disease, the cancer risks remain small, said Dr Kat Arney of Cancer Research UK.

"It is important to point out that gum disease is extremely common, and the majority of people who have it are unlikely to get pancreatic cancer," she said.

"This research shows an intriguing link between periodontal gum disease and pancreatic cancer, although we don't yet know exactly how the two are connected.

"Also, many of the people with pancreatic cancer in this study did not have periodontal disease.

"Smoking is the major preventable risk factor for pancreatic cancer, and is thought to cause around a quarter of all cases.

"If you are concerned about pancreatic cancer, there is information available from Cancer Research UK's patient information site, CancerHelp UK."

The study is published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.