Oral cancer screenings at the dentist’s office are a safe and effective way to catch this disease early, when treatment is easiest. Nearly everyone is susceptible to oral cancers, but some are at higher risk than others.
Tobacco Use and Oral Cancer
Any form of tobacco, whether smoked or “dipped,” escalates the risk of cancer of the gums, throat, soft tissue, tongue, and inner surface of the lips. Risk depends on many factors, including how long or frequently tobacco is used. Former users and even non-smokers are not risk-free, however. Screenings, which are built into routine dental exams, are designed to catch oral cancers early.
Drinking and Oral Cancers
About 70 percent of cases are among heavy drinkers, according to the CDC. That equals two or more drinks per day for men and one or more drinks per day for women. People who imbibe heavily are more than twice as likely to develop oral cancers than people who abstain.
Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
The Oral Cancer Foundation (OCF) calls this sexually transmitted disease the leading cause of oropharyngeal cancers, which affect the back of the throat, base of the tongue, and tonsil area. HPV is most common in sexually active young people. The OCF reports some positive news, however: People diagnosed with HPV-related oral cancers are at a lower risk of related death or reoccurrence.
Age-Related Oral Cancer Risk
Your risk of developing oral cancer increases as you age. According to the Cancer Treatment Centers of America, the average age of diagnosis is 62, but that is statistically declining because of HPV. As the age for new cases decreases, it is important for everyone to get regular screenings.
Gender and Oral Cancer
Men are twice as likely as women to develop oral cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, heavier tobacco and alcohol use among men accounts for some of the difference but the gap is narrowing as more women drink and smoke. Regular oral health examinations can detect oral cancer early in both genders.
Sun Exposure and Oral Cancers
People who work outside or with prolonged exposure to sunlight have a higher risk of developing lip cancer. It’s vital to use UV protection such as high-SPF lip balm. We suggest another proactive approach: Regular dentist visits, where screenings are a routine part of an examination.
Nutrition and Oral Cancer Risk
American Dental Association research indicates a link between diets low in fruit and vegetables and a higher risk for oral cancers. However, this type of cancer can also develop in people with healthy diets. No matter how you eat, a comprehensive oral examination is critical to early detection.
Regular exams make it possible for your dentist or our periodontal doctor to detect oral cancer early, vastly improving the outcome. Call our office for more information.