With a five-year survival rate of less than 10 percent and nearly 53,000 new cases diagnosed in the United States each year, pancreatic cancer is a real concern for many. Known to kill about 41,000 Americans annually, this form of cancer is among the deadliest. Courtesy of the location of the pancreas deep inside the body, the disease often goes undetected until long after it has begun to spread. This is complicated by very few symptoms at its onset, making early detection difficult, if not impossible, in many cases.

Researchers believe they may have found a way to better identify those who are at high-risk for the development of this disease. Findings in a similar vein may hold the key to more accurate early detection. The findings come from studies related to the oral germs found in the mouths of pancreatic cancer. The studies found that two particular germs served as strong markers for risk. Patients who presented with one of the two oral bacterium had a 59 percent higher risk of developing pancreatic cancer than those with the second. Those with the second were about 50 percent prone to already have pancreatic cancer, studies have found.

The findings shed light on a marker that may at some point down the road serve as an early predictor for pancreatic cancer. In turn, researchers say that preventative measures can be taken to help patients at higher risk avoid the disease. Whether the findings will lead to more widespread screening tools remains to be seen. Regardless, researchers suggest the findings to point to the need for good oral hygiene and routine dental check-ups.

Pancreatic cancer continues to have one of the lowest survival rates of all forms of cancer. Researchers, however, are working hard to make advances. The connection between oral health and pancreatic cancer may someday serve as a valuable marker to give patients a chance to prevent this disease before it takes root.