Risk Factors for Oral Cancer
It’s important to note that about 25% of all oral cancer victims have no risk factors, but there are several important risk factors to be aware of.
Gender: Men are twice as likely to develop oral cancer as women are. This is likely related to habits like drinking and using smokeless tobacco.
Smokeless Tobacco: Using smokeless tobacco increases your risk of oral cancer by 400%.
Alcohol Abuse: Drinking more than 21 drinks a week on a regular basis increases your risk of oral cancer. Alcohol abuse and using smokeless tobacco increases your risk of oral cancer by 6000%.
Age: Most often, people are diagnosed with oral cancer over the age of 40.
Dentures: Poorly fitting dentures are associated with an increased oral cancer risk.
Exposure: Prolonged sun or tanning bed exposure can increase your risk of lip cancer.
STD: Infection with the HPV16 virus has been linked to oral cancer risk.
Detecting Oral Cancer
As we said above, early detection is a key to increased odds of surviving oral cancer. It also means you are less likely to need extensive treatments that can mean oral surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy, which have their own side effects, including tooth (and dental implant) loss. To detect your oral cancer early, perform regular self-inspections. Monthly exams are recommended.
Where to Look:
Using a bright light and a mirror, examine:
- Lips, inside and out
- Gums–look around the inside of your lips, the inside of your cheeks, and all around the tongue
- Pull out the tongue and inspect all its surfaces
- The inside of the cheek
- The roof of the mouth
- The floor of the mouth
In addition to looking, feel along the inside surface of your mouth for irregular lumps, bumps, and sores. Also feel on the outside of your neck for enlarged lymph nodes.
What to Look for:
- White patches
- Red patches
- Red and white patches
- Sores that don’t heal and bleed often
- Abnormal lumps or thickened skin
In addition, report things like a chronic sore throat and if chewing or swallowing hurts.
Your at-home inspections are important, but even more important are regular visits to a dentist who should do a thorough inspection for signs of oral cancer.