Oral Cancer can occur on the tongue, the lips, the gums, inside the cheek, or on the roof or floor of the mouth. In the U.S, close to 49,750 people will be diagnosed with oral (oropharyngeal) cancer this year.
It will cause over 9.750 deaths, killing roughly 1 person per hour, 24 hours per day. The death rate for oral cancer is higher than that of cancers which we hear about routinely such as cervical cancer, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, laryngeal cancer, cancer of the testes, and endocrine system cancers such as thyroid.
Age | Most people who develop oral cancer are over the age of 40 at the time of discovery, however, it is occurring more frequently in those under this age. Exact causes for those affected at a younger age are becoming clearer through research, revealing a viral cause, the human papillomavirus number 16 (HPV16).
Tobacco | There are also links to young men and women who use conventional “smokeless” chewing or spit tobacco. While it has been promoted as a safer alternative to smoking, it has not proven to be any safer to those who use it when referring to oral cancers.
Sexually Transmitted | Studies have confirmed that in a younger age group, including those who have never used any tobacco products, have a cause which is HPV16 viral based. HPV16 has been shown to be sexually transmitted between partners and is conclusively implicated in the increasing incidence of young non-smoking oral cancer patients.
Alcohol | Excessive consumption of alcohol is a risk factor due to the alcohol conversion in a chemical called acetaldehyde, which has damaging effects on the body’s DNA and blocks cells from repairing the damage. When you combine tobacco with heavy use of alcohol, your risk is significantly increased, as the two acts synergistically. Those who both smoke and drink, have a 15 times greater risk of developing oral cancer than others.
Sun Exposure | Repeated sun exposure increases your risk of contracting cancer on your lips. Use a lip balm with SPF as a precaution whenever you can.
Diet | Studies indicate a diet low in fruits and vegetables could be a risk factor, and a diet high in these foods may have a protective value against many types of cancer. Our bodies need nutrients from fruits and vegetables to keep our immune system strong and resistant to the disease.
One of the real dangers of this cancer is that in its early stages, it can go unnoticed. It can be painless, and there may be little in the way of physical changes. The good news is that your Dentist can, in many cases, see or feel the precursor tissue changes, or actual cancer while it is still very small.
If you are concerned that you may be at risk for oral cancer, contact our office to talk about a screening. Regular visits to the dentist can be the first line of defense against oral cancer. We perform oral cancer screenings at every hygiene visit. Now is the perfect time to schedule an appointment. Call Us Today! (651) 393-9740