Oral Cancer

Oral Cancer – Know the Risks

Oral cancer includes any cancer in the tongue, cheeks, mouth floor, lips, palate, sinuses, or pharynx. Like all cancers, oral cancer can strike any person without warning. We can never eliminate all risks, but through lifestyle choices, we can reduce most of the risk factors and preserve oral health.

Fortunately, most of the major risk factors are things people already know they should avoid. If you find yourself indulging in any of these habits, please consider this list to be a wake-up call and a way to help you adopt a healthier lifestyle. If you can’t make those changes on your own, please ask for help.



This should come as no surprise. The majority of oral cancer diagnoses in older patients are among tobacco users. This includes both smoking and chewing tobacco, where the product stays in the mouth and does not enter the lungs.

Tobacco use also stains teeth, harming the person’s physical appearance. This is a secondary concern to the very lethal problem of oral cancer, but it’s still a cause for concern.



The American Cancer Society estimates that seven out of 10 oral cancer patients are heavy drinkers. Tobacco and heavy alcohol is a double-whammy that drives up the odds dramatically. Fortunately, moderate alcohol use is not a risk factor, so only excessive drinking is a cause for concern.



The Human Papillomavirus, or HPV, is a sexually-transmitted infection that can cause sores in the mouth and other areas of the body. While HPV vaccines have been approved for youths, rates of HPV cases in adults continue to rise. Most people with HPV never show symptoms, some do go on to get different forms of cancer, including oral cancer.

There are vaccines for both boys and girls today to protect them from getting HPV. There has been a big political battle over this issue, but cancer doesn’t pay attention to those issues and can strike anyone.



Bad diets cause more than lethargy, weight gain, and heart problems. Fruits and vegetables are needed for general nutrition and people should work on increasing their intake of plant-based foods for their general health. They also provide a bonus to oral health by being associated with significantly lower rates of oral cancer.




This is the one major risk factor that people can’t change. Older people are more likely to develop oral cancers, especially people over the age of 55. Men are twice as likely to develop it than women. African Americans are diagnosed with oral cancer more often than European-Americans.

Your risk of getting an oral cancer is impacted by both your lifestyle, which you have control over and your genes, which you do not. If you’re engaging in any risky activity, please consider adopting a healthier lifestyle immediately.



If you want to know more about oral health, you can reach our Friendly Dental of Worcester office at (508) 340-4611, our Unique Dental of Worcester office at (508) 556-6241, our Taunton Dental Center office at (508) 386-9018, and our Uxbridge Family Dental office at (508) 714-7046.

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