Periodontal Disease, Cancer May Be Linked in Men

A new study reports that men with a history of periodontal disease could have an increased risk of developing pancreatic cancer.

The study, conducted by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health, the University of San Juan and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, reviewed more than 51,000 male health professionals between the ages of 40 and 75. During a 16-year follow-up period between 1986 and 2002, 216 men developed pancreatic cancer.

After adjusting for age, smoking history, diabetes, obesity, diet and other potentially confounding variables, the researchers concluded that men with a history of periodontal disease had a 63 percent increased risk of pancreatic cancer compared to men without a history of periodontal disease.

While the study provides a long-term statistical association between periodontal disease and pancreatic cancer, it does not establish a definitive cause-effect relationship between the two conditions.

Periodontal disease is an infection of the tissues that support the teeth. It attacks just below the gum line, where it causes the attachment of the tooth and its supporting tissues to break down.

Risk factors associated with periodontal disease include tobacco smoking or chewing; systemic diseases such as diabetes; some types of medication such as steroids, some types of anti-epilepsy drugs, cancer therapy drugs and some calcium channel blockers; bridges that no longer fit properly; fillings that have become defective; and pregnancy or use of oral contraceptives.

Except in unusual cases, the risk of periodontal disease can be controlled by brushing twice a day and cleaning between the teeth with floss or an interdental cleaner once a day. A dentist may provide additional instructions on cleaning methods or products for use at home. Avoiding tobacco use and other healthy measures, such as eating a balanced diet, are important in preventing periodontal disease.

Please contact the ADA if you have questions about this article.

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