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The Top 7 Risk Factors for Oral Cancer

Scheduling regular dental visits is more than getting a cleaning and calling it a day. When looking at protecting your total health, regular doctor’s appointments, including dental visits are critical in addressing concerns before they become a major problem.


In honor of Oral Cancer Awareness Week, which runs from April 8-15th we will be discussing topics to better understand the causes and effects of oral cancer and how routine checkups can help save your life.


Below we discuss the top 7 risk factors for oral cancer.

1. Gender

Oral cancer effects almost twice as many men as woman. The American Cancer Society attributes this to higher use of alcohol and tobacco but more younger men are being diagnosed with HPV related forms of oral cancer.

2. Age

Historically oral cancer has been linked to people aged 40+, with most people diagnosed being over the age of 55. In recent years, we have seen an increase in cases for those under 40. Again, some of this can be attributed to HPV related cases.

3. Tobacco

Tobacco, in any form dramatically increases your chances of oral cancer. Smoking can cause oral cancer as well as other forms of cancer. Chewing tobacco can lead to many issues, including cancer in the cheeks, gums & lips. Smokeless tobacco users increase their chances of oral cancer by 400%!

4. Alcohol

7 out of 10 oral cancer patients are heavy drinkers. As defined by the CDC, two or more drinks a day for men and one or more drinks a day for women is considered heavy drinking. Using tobacco and alcohol in combination increases the risk of oral cancer 15 times over the use of just one or the other!

5. Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)

Infection with the sexually transmitted HPV virus has been linked to oral cancer. In the United States, it is associated with 9,000 cases of head & neck cancer each year. This type of cancer tends to affect younger nonsmokers and although at a lower risk for death or reoccurrence, this too must be taken seriously.

6. Sunlight

Prolonged sun or tanning bed exposure increases the risk for lip cancer. Those who spend an extended amount of time outdoors or whom have jobs working outside should always use UV protection.

7. Diet

As with many health issues, a poor diet increases your chances of disease. It is important to have a healthy, balanced nutrition plan. Make sure to eat those fruits and vegetables!


Nearly 50,000 cases of oral cancer are detected every year and will claim close to 10,000 lives annually. Early detection is critical to ease the treatment process and provide a greater chance for survival. Make sure you’re protecting yourself and your loved ones by scheduling regular dental appointments!


Sources:

https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/oral-cancer-slideshow

https://www.aaoms.org/docs/media/oral_cancer/2017_oral_cancer_fact_sheet.pdf