Oral Cancer: Risk Factors

Few words elicit as much fear as “Cancer.” Oral cancer carries a special kind of terror because your mouth is necessary for both speaking and eating. Another phrase you often hear is, “early detection.” While early detection certainly saves lives, do not wait for symptoms to start thinking about making changes. There are some things you can do now to decrease your risk of oral cancer.

Risk Factors

Age and Gender: Diagnosis of oral cancer often occurs in adults between 55 and 64. Men are more commonly diagnosed with oral cancer than women. Neither of these risk factors are in your control, but it is good to know. If you fit either of these risk factors and are experiencing concerning symptoms, schedule an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible.

Tobacco Products: Using tobacco products of any sort drastically increases your risk for oral cancer due to the ingredients of various tobacco products. Oral cancer is a risk for both smokers and chewers. If you would like to quit using tobacco products, there are a number of options available to you. Your doctor will be able to help as well. You should note that switching from one form of tobacco to another will not decrease your risk for oral cancer.

Heavy Alcohol Consumption: Heavy drinking is considered more than four drinks a day. If you are drinking more than four drinks a day, you might be putting yourself at risk for oral cancer. Heavy drinking can erode your teeth and damage the soft tissues in your mouth. This in turn makes you more susceptible to several oral health problems, including cancer.

Poor Nutrition: If you are not eating enough fruits and vegetables, poor nutrition can put you at risk because your body is not healthy enough to fight various infections or to maintain healthy processes.

Sun Exposure: This tends to be associated with lip cancer. If you are spending long periods in the sun without proper protection, you may be putting your lips (as well as the rest of your skin) at risk. Use proper protection every time you are going out to work or play in the sun. Proper protection includes sunblock and adequate clothing.

If you are engaging in one of these behaviors, do not panic. Contact your doctor to get some help in making changes that will improve your overall health. Also, contact us for an exam and cleaning. We offer a screening with each exam and cleaning to help you catch oral cancer early!