How diet, obesity and even gum disease may affect immune system and cancer

BOSTON -- The immune system is fickle, and easily influenced by more than just viruses and bacteria. It can be swayed by the seemingly unexpected, such as by what we eat, for example, and affected by surprising sources. At the American Association for Cancer Research's Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research meeting, scientists are taking a closer look at the link between increasingly common lifestyle factors, the immune system and cancer, with the ultimate goals of preventing and better understanding cancer development.

A Prospective Study of Periodontal Disease and Pancreatic Cancer

Can diseased gums increase the risk of pancreatic cancer? Epidemiologists at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston think it could, at least according to the findings of a study analyzing 16 years of health data on more than 52,000 men.

Dominique Michaud, Sc.D., assistant professor of epidemiology in the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, and colleagues at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the University of Puerto Rico wanted to know if inflammation, and specifically, systemic inflammation from periodontal disease, might be related to pancreatic cancer.

According to Michaud, several studies have linked inflammation and cancer, and researchers have found a high risk of developing pancreatic cancer among individuals with pancreatitis, or inflammation of the pancreas. But the ties between periodontal disease and cancer have been more tenuous.

Previous studies have shown associations between tooth loss and cancer, and pancreatic cancer as well. But the validity of such studies was questionable because of confounding factors, including smoking, which contributes to both periodontal disease and cancer. An association with periodontal disease and heart disease has also been examined, with systemic inflammation being a potential mechanism behind the connection. Periodontal disease results in chronic inflammation over many y

Contact: Warren Froelich
American Association for Cancer Research

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