April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month, and the most effective way to raise awareness is through education. According to a recent article from MouthHealthy.org, approximately 49,750 people will be diagnosed with oral cancer in 2017. While regular visits to your dentist can help with early detection, being aware of some of the top risk factors and reducing harmful habits can go a long way in reducing your chances of developing oral cancer. Here’s a look at the top risk factors for oral cancer:
Men are twice as likely to get oral cancer than their female counterparts. The American Cancer Society claims that this statistic is due to higher rates of alcohol and tobacco use by men. Additionally, more men of a younger age are being diagnosed with HPV-related forms of oral cancer.
Most people who are diagnosed with oral cancer are older than 55, with the exception of HPV-related oral cancers.
Tobacco, in cigarette or chew form, significantly increases your risk of developing oral cancer. Smoking can cause cancer in other parts of the body too, however pipe smokers are at a higher risk of developing cancer in their lips. Smokeless tobacco can lead to many issues in your mouth, including cancer of the cheeks, gums, and lips.
Seven of ten oral cancer patients are heavy drinkers, according to the American Cancer Society. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines heavy drinking as an average of two drinks a day or more for men and an average of more than one drink a day for women. If you are a heavy drinker and a heavy smoker, your chances of developing oral cancer increase significantly.
Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)
This sexually transmitted disease is associated with approximately 9,000 cases of head and neck cancer diagnosed each year in the U.S. Those diagnosed with HPV-related head and neck cancer tend to be younger and nonsmokers. People with HPV-positive cancers have a lower risk of death or recurrence, even though they are usually diagnosed at a later stage.
Individuals with jobs working outside are more prone to develop lip cancer and are advised to use UV protection.
Poor nutrition can also put you at risk for developing oral cancer. A diet low in vegetable and fruit has been associated with an increased risk of developing oral cancer.
Many dentists now offer oral cancer screenings, which is extremely important if you find that you have one or more of these risk factors. Early detection is crucial in the battle against oral cancer. At Miami Dental Sedation Spa, we use the Oral ID exam as an important part of our annual comprehensive oral screening protocol. This exam is used after our standard visual oral cancer examination to help detect suspicious areas that lie underneath the surface of the tissues, which are not detectable with the naked eye. For more information, check out this article from our own, Dr. Sanchez.