The presence of a certain bacteria in the mouth may be linked to an increased risk of pancreatic cancer, suggest the results of a study recently presented at the 2016 American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting (16–20 April, LA, USA).
The results of the study, carried out by researchers at NYU Langone Medical Center and its Laura and Isaac Perlmutter Cancer Center (NY, USA), could potentially allow for the disease to be treated earlier and more precisely, as it is a disease that often escapes early diagnosis.
Researchers were lead to investigate this link with the oral microbiome, as pancreatic cancer patients are known to be prone to poor oral health such as gum disease and cavities. Mouthwash samples from 361 initially healthy American men and women who eventually went on to develop pancreatic cancer were compared with samples taken from 371 individuals of similar age, ethnic origin and gender who did not develop the disease.
Senior investigator Jiyoung Ahn (NYU Langone Medical Center) and colleagues found that individuals who carried Porphyromonas gingivalis in the mouth had a 59 % increased risk of developing pancreatic cancer, compared with those who did not contain the bacteria in their oral microbiome.
This finding was echoed in individuals with oral microbiomes containing Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans, in whom risk for pancreatic cancer increased by 50%. Both bacteria have been linked to oral diseases such as periodontitis.
“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,” stated Ahn.”These bacterial changes in the mouth could potentially show us who is most at risk of developing pancreatic cancer,” she added.
In a previous study, the team demonstrated the link between smoking cigarettes and the dramatic change in the makeup of an individual’s oral bacteria. Further studies are needed, however, to determine whether the smoking-related changes in the mouth bacteria alter the immune system as a result or trigger other cancer-related systems in the pancreas.