Pancreatic Cancer and the Dental Health Link

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There is perhaps nothing more unsettling than being diagnosed with cancer. It is often a frightening and stressful time in one’s life, but survival rates are increasing. Over the years huge strides have been made in cancer research and medicine has found more effective cancer treatments. Also, cancer screenings have become more successful at detecting cancers in the body before they spread, making them less deadly and more manageable to treat. However, pancreatic cancer remains one of the most deadly.

Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancer has one of the lowest survival rates because of how difficult it is to detect. According to, there aren’t any affordable and reliable cancer screening options that can detect pancreatic cancer in those individuals that show no symptoms of the disease. Often this results in finding doctors finding condition when it’s spread to other parts of the body. Cancer found in the advanced stages is often untreatable and has a low survival rate. Since it’s so difficult to detect pancreatic cancer, the best way to combat it is to prevent it.

There are quite a few ways to reduce your risk of getting pancreatic cancer. The American Cancer Society recommends a few different ways to lower your chances of getting pancreatic cancer such as:

  • Quitting smoking is a great way to reduce your risk of getting pancreatic cancer
  • Maintaining a healthy weight and eating plenty of vegetables lowers your cancer risk
  • Limiting alcohol consumption may impact your chances of getting pancreatic cancer
  • Avoiding chemical exposure could decrease your likelihood of developing pancreatic cancer

Another surprising way to prevent pancreatic cancer is to practice good dental health and oral hygiene.

Pancreatic Cancer and Dental Health

For a long time, researchers have equated poor dental hygiene, like missing teeth and periodontal disease, to various health issues such as heart disease, arthritis, pancreatic cancer. However, the connection between dental health and pancreatic cancer was still misunderstood. Little was known about how oral health could be related to pancreatic cancer, but scientists were curious if they could find the link. It wasn’t until Dr. Jiyoung Ahn, Ph.D. discovered an oral bacteria that could be directly linked to pancreatic cancer.

The Pancreatic Action Network reported in May 2017 that Dr. Ahn discovered two different types of bacteria in the mouth are connected to a 50% increase chance of pancreatic cancer. Researchers are unclear if those people with chronic inflammation are more prone to periodontal issues, which increases the risk of bacteria growth in the mouth, are more likely to develop cancer, including pancreatic cancer.

Possible Testing for Pancreatic Cancer

Dr. Ahn’s groundbreaking work has led to further research into whether tests can be developed to use oral bacteria as a pancreatic detection tool. The implication could save thousands of lives as the earlier the cancer is found, the higher the chances of survival. There have been quite a few studies conducted since Dr. Ahn’s discover, one such study, cited in Let’s Win! Pancreatic Cancer, led by Harvard School of Public Medicine, and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute pointed to an increase in pancreatic cancer when a periodontal disease was present. Furthermore, men with a specific type of oral bacteria were over 60% more likely to develop pancreatic cancer, than their counterparts that didn’t have the same strain of bacteria.

It’s always been common sense knowledge to brush your teeth at least twice a day, clean interdentally daily, and keep up with regular dental check-ups. However, with the recent findings, it’s even more apparent, how important it is to visit your dentist twice a year and take care of your pearly whites. It’s not just for your pearly whites, but for your overall health and it could even save your life.