Gum disease, a precursor for cancer, study suggests

According to scientists from Finland, poor oral health leading to periodontitis could predict cancer later in life

Latest research from the University of Helsinki, Helsinki University Hospital, Finland and the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden shows that advanced periodontitis stages involving certain types of bacteria (also known as Treponema denticola) could also lead to certain types of cancer, such as pancreatic cancer.

As indicated by the study in 2017, the bacteria and pancreatic cancer share the same enzyme called Treponema denticola chymotrypsin-like proteinase (Td-CTLP).

As a further step, the molecular mechanism linking the two diseases was studied. Turns out that gum disease could also be linked to esophageal cancer, via the same Td-CTLP enzyme activity.

“In addition, our in vitro experiments provide evidence that Td-CTLP shows immunomodulatory activity that can have a crucial role in promoting and regulating carcinogenesis,” the authors declared.

Besides finding out that virulence factors may spread from the mouth, the team of researchers have investigated the link between the periodontitis and cancer-related mortality, by analizyng data from 68,273 adults over a period of 10 years.

The results confirmed the link between gum disease and death due to pancreatic cancer.

“These studies have demonstrated for the first time that the virulence factors of the central pathogenic bacteria underlying gum disease are able to spread from the mouth to other parts of the body, most likely in conjunction with the bacteria, and take part in central mechanisms of tissue destruction related to cancer,” Dr. Sorsa, led-author of the study commented, while underlining the importance of a good oral health for each and every one of us.

The research was published last week in the International Journal of Cancer.