The health of your mouth could potentially be linked with your cancer risk, a new study in the journal Gut suggests.
Researchers from Brown University, the Forsyth Institute and Harvard University have found that high antibody levels against strains of the oral bacteria Porphyromonas gingivalis are linked with a doubled risk of pancreatic cancer. The body generates antibodies as a response to foreign invaders, like bacteria.
“This is not an established risk factor,” study researcher Dominique Michaud, an epidemiologist at Brown University, said in a statement. “But I feel more confident that there is something going on. It’s something we need to understand better.”
The study included data from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition Study, which included more than 500,000 people. The researchers used the health history of 405 people with pancreatic cancer and 416 similarly matched people without pancreatic cancer.
They took blood samples from all of the study participants, and measured their antibodies for 25 different kinds of bacteria — including pathogenic (or harmful) bacteria, as well as commensal (or harmless) bacteria.
The researchers found the link between high amounts of antibodies against Porphyromonas gingivalis and pancreatic cancer, and were able to deduce that cancer was not causing the high antibody levels because the high levels were present as long as a decade before the study participants developed the cancer.
Researchers also found that high antibody levels against harmless bacteria in the mouth were associated with a 45 percent lower risk of developing the disease — suggesting that the antibodies for these bacteria could actually have a protective effect.