Top 5 Risk Factors for Oral Cancer

Oct 31 2019

It’s estimated that over 51,000 people will be diagnosed with oral cancer and cancers of the throat, tonsils, and back of the tongue each year. A dentist can check for symptoms of oral cancer during a scheduled check-up. Early detection of such cancers is beneficial for treatment, but you should also know the risk factors and habits that might put you at risk.  Changing a few potentially harmful habits may help reduce your chances of developing oral cancer. Read on to find out the top risk factors.

Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

The sexually transmitted disease is now associated with around 9,000 cases of head and neck cancer (explicitly those happening at the back of the tongue, in or around the tonsils) diagnosed every year in the United States according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). People who are diagnosed with HPV related cancer tend to be young and non-smokers. People with HPV positive cancer have a lower risk of death or recurrence even though these cancers are often diagnosed at a later stage because it develops in difficult-to-detect areas.

Gender

Men are twice as likely to get oral cancer. The American Cancer Society attributes this to higher rates of liquor and tobacco use by men and more men of younger age are being diagnosed with HPV related form of oral cancer.

Age

Most people who are diagnosed with oral cancer are 55 or older. However, according to the American Cancer Society HPV related oral cancers are now being diagnosed in younger people as well. 

Tobacco

Whether you smoke it or chew tobacco, it drastically increases your risk for oral cancer. Smoking can cause oral cancer, as well as cancer in other parts of the body. Pipe smokers are also at a higher risk of developing cancer in their lips. Smokeless tobacco, like chew, can lead to numerous issues in your mouth, the most serious being cancer of the cheeks, gums, and lips.

Alcohol

According to the American Cancer Society, 7 of 10 oral cancer patients are heavy drinkers. Heavy drinking, as characterized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is an average of two drinks per day or more for men and an average of more than one drink daily for women. If you are a heavy drinker and a heavy smoker, your chances of developing oral cancer significantly.

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