Interesting research over recent years into risk factors for adenocarcinoma of the pancreas have yielded the usual suspects – and a number of somewhat surprising candidates for pancreatic cancer. These include the smoking of tobacco products, onset of diabetes, large intake of alcohol, pancreatitis, (possibly) obesity, ABO blood typing status, and even infections such as those that cause hepatitis and dental disease.
Also, increasingly there is work showing relationships between infectious agents and several other gastrointestinal cancers – agents including the hepatitis B and C viruses, human papilloma virus (HPV), Epstein-Barr virus, and Helicobacter pylori (a primary cause of peptic ulcers).
In a study released July 10, 2013 in the journal Carcinogenesis, Michaud of Brown University has published an intriguing article discussing infectious agents in the role of the origins of pancreatic cancer that particularly fingers the above noted Helicobacter pylori and Porphyrmomonas gingivalis – a the bacteria particularly associated with periodontal disease.
Michaud further discusses the possible complex interplay of risk factors, the human immune system, and the possible effect of an “outside” infective agent in the triggering of the onset of pancreatic cancer.
This work presents an altogether exciting and inclusive thesis. Again, early days – but hopefully this thoughtful synthesis will serve as an impetus to better tease out the role that infectious agents may play in the onset of pancreatic cancer.
Dale O’Brien, MD