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4 Common Factors That Can Increase Your Risk of Oral Cancer

January 4, 2021

Filed under: Uncategorized — cowelldental @ 4:00 pm
person breaking a cigarette in half to reduce their oral cancer risk

Diagnosing cancer of the mouth or throat is difficult because most people don’t notice the warning signs. For example, if symptoms only show up at the back of the throat, the condition can be all too easy to miss until it’s too late. Of the 1.7 million Americans who were diagnosed with cancer in 2019, about 53,000 of them had an oral malignancy, according to the American Cancer Society. To help you reduce your chances of developing this disease, here are four common risk factors for oral cancer.

1. UV Exposure

Sunlight can elevate your mood, lower stress, and make you feel more productive. However, while most of us wear hats and sunscreen when we go outside, not nearly as many people remember to apply lip balm. Shielding your lips with a balm of at least SPF 15 can prevent pre-cancerous mutations in the skin cells on your lips as a result of continuous unprotected exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays.

2. Tobacco Use

Smoking or chewing tobacco puts you at risk for all types of cancer, especially that of the throat or mouth. Research shows that tobacco accounts for almost 30% of all cancer-related deaths, and around 90% of people who develop oral cancer use tobacco products. All products with nicotine also contain carcinogens that can alter your cells’ DNA, causing them to grow dangerously quickly and form a tumor.

3. Excessive Alcohol Consumption

Heavy alcohol use irritates the cells in your mouth, making them more vulnerable to cancer. If you’re going to drink alcohol, do so in moderation (only two drinks per day at the most).

4. HPV

Human papilloma virus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the U.S., with rates of HPV currently on the rise. At least 12 known strains of HPV can develop into cancer. The CDC has recommended that everyone between the ages of 11 and 26 receive the HPV vaccine, which can help prevent reproductive cancers as well as oral cancer.

How to Reduce the Risk of Oral Cancer

There is no way to ensure you’ll never get oral cancer, but you can take certain steps to lower your risk. For instance, if you spend a lot of time outside, wear an SPF 15 sun balm year-round. Cutting tobacco and alcohol out of your life (or at least reducing your consumption) can benefit your overall health in addition to minimizing your oral cancer risk.

Make sure to keep up with your routine dental checkups and cleanings, too. Your dentist can perform an oral cancer screening at these visits. If they notice any problem areas, they can develop a treatment plan. As with any type of cancer, early detection is key.

About the Author

Dr. Christopher Cowell is a dentist in DeLand, FL with more than 23 years of experience. He obtained his dental doctorate from the University of Florida College of Dentistry and is an active member of several professional organizations, including the American Dental Association and the Florida Dental Association. He performs an oral cancer screening during routine checkups to ensure his patients’ safety. To learn more about preventing oral cancer, visit his website or call his office at (386) 734-8585.

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