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Bacteria May Signal Risk For Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancer is highly lethal and difficult to detect early. In a new study, researchers report that people who had high levels of antibodies for an infectious oral bacterium turned out to have double the risk for developing the cancer. High antibody levels for harmless oral bacteria, meanwhile, predicted a reduced pancreatic cancer risk.

A new study finds significant associations between antibodies for multiple oral bacteria and the risk of pancreatic cancer, adding support for the emerging idea that the ostensibly distant medical conditions are related.

The study of blood samples from more than 800 European adults, published 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-percent 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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