4 Keys To Preventing Oral Cancer
“Approximately 53,000 people in the U.S. will be newly diagnosed with oral cancer this year. 132 new people in the US EVERY DAY will be newly diagnosed with an oral cancer, and that one person EVERY HOUR OF THE DAY, 24/7/365 will die from it.” – Oral Cancer Foundation
Oral, Head & Neck Cancer Awareness Month
Despite the efforts of the Oral Cancer Foundation, primary care physicians, celebrities, athletes, insurance providers, and dentists across the country, oral cancer awareness in the American public is pretty low.
That’s why every April we choose to help spread the message and build awareness about the risk factors, symptoms & treatments of oral, head & neck cancer.
What Causes Oral Cancer?
According to the Mayo Clinic, oral, head & neck cancers form when cells on the lips or in the mouth develop changes (mutations) in their DNA.
A cell’s DNA contains the instructions that tell a cell what to do.
The mutations changes tell the cells to continue growing and dividing when healthy cells would die. The accumulating abnormal mouth cancer cells can form a tumor.
With time they may spread inside the mouth and on to other areas of the head and neck or other parts of the body.
Mouth cancers most commonly begin in the flat, thin cells (squamous cells) that line your lips and the inside of your mouth.
Most oral cancers are squamous cell carcinomas.
It’s not clear what causes the mutations in squamous cells that lead to mouth cancer. But doctors have identified factors that may increase the risk of mouth cancer.
4 Ways to Help Prevent Oral Cancer
The fact is there’s no proven way to prevent oral cancer, but you can take serious steps to reduce your risk of ever developing this potentially deadly disease.
Yes, you can die from oral cancer.
To reduce your risk factor for developing oral cancer, take specific care to avoid the most common known risk factors.
Tobacco: If you smoke, dip, chew, vape, toke on a pipe or deliver tobacco into your bloodstream via any other method, quit it. And if you don’t currently use tobacco in any form, be smart & don’t start!
Using tobacco, whether smoked or chewed, exposes the cells in your mouth to dangerous cancer-causing chemicals.
Alcohol: Drink alcohol in moderation, if at all. Chronic excessive alcohol use can irritate the cells in your mouth, making them vulnerable to oral cancer.
For healthy adults, that means up to one drink a day for women of all ages and men older than age 65, and up to two drinks a day for men age 65 and younger.
Sun: Avoid excessive sun exposure to your lips by protecting the skin on your lips from the sun. Stay in the shade whenever possible and be sure to apply sunscreen regularly.
According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, sunlight, through actinic radiation, helps to produce cancer along the vermilion border of the lip.
HPV: The leading cause of oropharyngeal cancer is from HPV, a very small number of oral cavity cancers also occur from HPV. The HPV family contains almost 200 strains, and it is one of the most common viruses in the United States. Of the nine that are high risk, only one is strongly associated with oropharyngeal cancer, HPV16.
The CDC says that up to 80% of Americans will have HPV infections in their lifetime and 99% will clear these infections without consequence, or even knowing that they had the infection, as it produces no symptoms they will notice.
Preventing Oral Cancer Is Key
The best way to prevent oral cancer is to avoid the most commonly known risk factors, and to see your dentist regularly – every 6 months for most people.
An oral cancer screening is an important part of a comprehensive dental exam where your dentist inspects your entire mouth for abnormal areas that may indicate mouth cancer or precancerous changes.
Wayne NJ Dentist: Wayne Dental Arts office of Frank V. Maldonado, D.D.S.
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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on Dental Patient News and has been republished here with permission. It has since been updated for accuracy & comprehensiveness.