Oral bacteria may signal pancreatic cancer risk

The study of blood samples from more than 800 European adults, published online Sept. 18 in the journal Gut, found that high antibody levels for one of the more infectious periodontal bacterium strains of Porphyromonas gingivalis were associated with a two-fold risk for pancreatic cancer.

The study of blood samples from more than 800 European adults, published online Sept. 18 in the journal Gut, found that high antibody levels for one of the more infectious periodontal bacterium strains of Porphyromonas gingivalis were associated with a two-fold risk for pancreatic cancer. Meanwhile, study subjects with high levels of antibodies for some kinds of harmless "commensal" oral bacteria were associated with a 45% lower risk of pancreatic cancer.

"The relative increase in risk from smoking is not much bigger than two," said Brown University epidemiologist Dominique Michaud, the paper's corresponding author. "If this is a real effect size of two, then potential impact of this finding is really significant."

Pancreatic cancer, which is difficult to detect and kills most patients within six months of diagnosis, is responsible for 40,000 deaths a year in the United States.

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