While anyone can develop oral cancer, meeting certain risk factors makes it more likely you will receive a diagnosis. For example, you don’t develop oral cancer from something as simple as irritation from dentures or from using mouthwash with a high alcohol content. According to the American Cancer Society, people with the highest risk of oral cancer typically meet one or more of these risk factors:
Age greater than 55: Two of every three people diagnosed with oral cancer are at least 55 years old. The average age of diagnosis is 62.
Male gender: Both oral cancer and oropharyngeal cancer are twice as common in men as they are in women. Part of the explanation is that a higher percentage of men smoke and chew tobacco. However, this gap is decreasing as more women pick up these habits.
Prolonged exposure to ultraviolet light: Oral and lip cancer are more common in people with frequent and prolonged exposure to sunlight, including those who work outdoors. It doesn’t have to be summer for the sun to cause damage.
Diet low in fruits and vegetables: Research from the American Cancer Society indicates that people with poor nutrition have an increased risk of both oral cancer and oropharynx cancer.
Genetic mutation: Two specific inherited conditions can increase the risk of this disease. They include Fanconi anemia and dyskeratosis congenita. The first is a blood condition that causes abnormal replication in several sets of genes. Children with this condition could develop aplastic anemia or leukemia. Both adults and children with Fanconi anemia have as much as a 500 percent greater risk of developing oral cancer as those without it. Dyskeratosis congenita is commonly associate with aplastic anemia and also greatly increases the risk of throat and mouth cancer earlier in life.
Smoking or chewing tobacco: Up to 80 percent of people who develop a type of oral cancer smoke cigarettes, chew snuff, or chew tobacco. The longer they smoke or chew, the greater the risk of oral cancer. The cheeks, gums, and lips are the most common places for tumors to appear.
Alcohol use: Approximately 70 percent of new diagnoses of oral cancer are among people who drink heavily. The risk is up to 100 times greater for those who both smoke and drink.
Oral Cancer Screening Part of Your Bi-Annual Preventive Care Exam
Dentists are in a unique position to diagnosis oral cancer, which is why it’s important to come in for a check-up every six months. The earlier our dentists detect a tumor, the better your outcome with the disease. We include oral cancer screening in each preventive care appointment. If it’s been more than half a year since your last exam, please contact Crossland Dental Associates in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina to schedule one. We also encourage you to control any risk factors that you can.