Be Wise About Oral Cancer
Today may be April Fools Day, but what we are completely serious about what we are discussing. April also is Oral Cancer Awareness Month, and we encourage you to take a few minutes to read through today’s post.
This year, nearly 50,000 people will be diagnosed with oral cancer in the United States, and nearly 10,000 people will die from this disease, according to the Oral Cancer Foundation.
In today’s post, we want to remind you of the three biggest risk factors for oral cancer and share some things you can do to reduce that risk.
One thing that anyone can do is visit our dentist office in Rochester Hills, MI. We conduct oral cancer screenings (we will discuss this more in another post later this month) as part of our dental exams because we know how important early detection can be to the effectiveness of treatment.
Oral Cancer Prevention
It’s important to point out that doctors can determine the cause of many cancer cases, but there will always be some instances in which the cause is unclear.
With that in mind, there are things you can do to help prevent the three primary causes of oral cancer.
This starts with knowing what those risk factors are and what you can do about them.
► Risk Factor #1: Tobacco use
Tobacco is without question the leading cause of oral cancer. At the low end, experts estimate that tobacco is a factor in at least 75 percent of oral cancer cases. At the high end, it may be a factor in as many as 90 percent of cases.
Tobacco products are known to include a variety of known cancer-causing chemicals. Tobacco use also affects your overall health, which can weaken your immune system. And tobacco use is known to weaken the soft tissues of the mouth, which makes them more vulnerable to a range of health problems.
All forms of tobacco — cigarettes, cigars, smokeless tobacco — will increase your risk of developing oral cancer.
The best option is to avoid tobacco entirely. As any regular tobacco user can tell you, quitting tobacco can be difficult.
But quitting is possible. It’s easier when you have support. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has information about tobacco on its website. This includes links to resources where you can get help if you want to quit.
► Risk Factor #2: Alcohol use
Alcohol use is the next most common contributing factor to alcohol use. And the more alcohol you consume, the greater your risk.
Health officials report that men who consume 21 or more drinks per week and women who consume 14 or more drinks weekly. In other words, having a drink every now and then may not affect your risk.
As with tobacco, avoid alcohol may be the best approach. If you are going to drink, do so only in moderation.
▪︎ Special note about tobacco and alcohol
One of the complications is that many people use tobacco while consuming alcohol. According to the Oral Health Foundation, using alcohol and tobacco together can lead to a 30-fold increase in your risk of developing oral cancer.
Alcohol can dry out the soft tissue of your mouth. This makes it more likely that they will absorb the chemical in tobacco products.
Again, this is something to keep in mind if you consume alcohol, use tobacco products, or both.
► Risk Factor #3: HPV
According to the Centers for Disease Control, 80 percent of the population will contract HPV, or the human papillomavirus, during their lives. For 99 out of 100 people, the virus will cause little or no effects.
For 1 person in 100, however, HPV can be deadly. Certain strains of HPV are known to increase the risk for cervical and oral cancers.
This is also why health officials recommend that children receive the HPV vaccine around 11 or 12 years old. Some patients who are older may still be eligible to receive the vaccine. Talk to your family physician to learn more.
As we mentioned above, oral cancer screenings are a regular part of what we do at Hubbard & Leath Dental. We hope we never find anything. Yet, we know that early detection can go a long way in making treatment more effective.