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Oral Bacteria May Reveal Pancreatic Cancer Risk

The presence of certain bacteria in the mouth may reveal increased risk for pancreatic cancer and enable earlier, more precise treatment. That was the primary finding of a study conducted at the NYU Langone Medical Center and the Laura and Isaac Perlmutter Cancer Center.

The study examined bacterial contents in mouthwash samples from 361 men and women who developed pancreatic cancer with samples of a comparable sized group of people of similar age, gender, and ethnic origin who did not. Participants were monitored for nearly a decade for cancer. 

Researchers had found that pancreatic cancer patients are known to be susceptible to gum disease and cavities, and poor oral health. That vulnerability led the research team to search for direct links between the makeup of bacteria driving oral disease and subsequent development of pancreatic cancer.

The study found that adults whose oral microbiomes included Porphyromonas gingivalis had a 59 percent greater risk of developing pancreatic cancer.  Oral microbiomes containing Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans were at least 50 percent more likely overall to develop the disease.

Senior investigator and epidemiologist Jiyoung Ahn, PhD, commented on the study, saying, "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." 

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