African Americans are more likely to get pancreatic cancer than their white counterparts, and are also more likely to experience periodontal disease and adult tooth loss.
A new study co-authored by Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) researchers is the first to suggest a link between these two disparities, finding that, among African American women, having adult tooth loss and/or periodontal disease may double the risk of pancreatic cancer.
The study, published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, only found this association among non-smokers, who typically have lower risk of pancreatic cancer than smokers.
“Apart from avoiding cigarette smoking, there is little an individual can do to reduce risk of pancreatic cancer, but oral health is a modifiable factor,” says senior study author Dr. Julie Palmer, professor of epidemiology at BUSPH and associate director of Boston University’s Slone Epidemiology Center. “Improving access to low-cost, high-quality dental care for all Americans may decrease racial disparities in this cancer.”
Previous research in predominantly-white populations has suggested a link between oral health issues and pancreatic cancer risk, but no previous study had examined the link in African Americans.
For this study, the researchers used data from the BU-based “Black Women’s Health Study“, a long-term, prospective study of 59,000 Black women across the United States followed since 1995.
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