Poor Oral Health Linked to Pancreatic Cancer in African-American Women

iStock

Tooth loss and gum infections like periodontitis put African American women at higher risk for cancer of the pancreas, suggest researchers at Boston University School of Medicine whose study was just published in the American Association for Cancer Research journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

African Americans have higher rates of pancreatic cancer, as well as higher rates of adult tooth loss and severe gum disease than Caucasians. The BU researchers used data from the Black Women's Health Study to show that women with poor oral health have a significantly higher risk — especially those who had lost at least five teeth — than women who didn’t have periodontal disease or adult tooth loss.

This association may be related to inflammation caused by certain bacteria, the researchers say. Previous studies in different populations have linked antibodies produced in response to oral bacteria to increased pancreatic cancer risk. Along with avoiding smoking and maintaining a healthy weight, good dental hygiene may help lower your risk.