Earlier this year, a study led by New York University Langone revealed that the presence of two specific bacteria found in the mouth, could be evidence that a person may have a greater risk of developing pancreatic cancer.
The study could be extremely helpful in the diagnosis of the disease as pancreatic cancer has no symptoms. It is also one of the biggest cancer killers today. However, the group hopes that dental education could help in the discovery of the disease before it is too late.
NYU Langone's dental research was presented in April at the American Association for Cancer Research's annual meeting. Pancreatic cancer has an extremely low survival rate and researchers are hopeful the new finding could lead to better and earlier medical diagnosis.
News of the group's presentation was released by the website Medical News Today, who released a statement from NYU Langone's senior author Dr. Jiyoung Ahn, epidemiologist and associate professor of population health and environmental medicine at NYU School of Medicine.
“Our study offers the first direct evidence that specific changes in the microbial mix in the mouth – the oral microbiome – represent a likely risk factor for pancreatic cancer along with older age, male gender, smoking, African-American race, and a family history of the disease,” Dr. Ahn said.
In the report presented at the annual meeting, the authors became the first to directly link specific types of mouth bacteria to pancreatic cancer. Previously, other reports had linked poor oral health, including chronic gum disease, to the deadly cancer. The researchers compared the mouth bacteria taken from 361 people prior to developing pancreatic cancer. More bacteria was then taken from 371 similar people who did not develop pancreatic cancer, and was compared against the original set.
The research team found that the presence of Porphyromonas gingivalis led to a 59% higher risk of forming pancreatic cancer. In addition, the presence of actinomycetemcomitans was linked to a 50% higher risk of developing the disease. Both mouth bacteria are found in people suffering from gum disease.
The research team also found that smoking can change the mouth's bacteria. However, dental research is still being performed to find whether it can lead to pancreatic cancer.
It does seem to put people at risk. In the United States alone, it is estimated that over 46,000 people were diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2014. It is believed that 40,000 of those people diagnosed died of the disease.
The dental research being done hopes to eliminate those dying from the disease as pancreatic cancer currently ranks as the 12th most common cancer in the U.S. According to reports, men are more likely to develop the disease than women. Men who smoke are even more at risk as it appears more smokers come down with the disease than non-smokers.
With more dental research, the team of researchers will know more about the bacteria. For now, a simple dental visit could possibly lead to the discovery of pancreatic cancer before it is too late.