What You Should Know About Today’s Oral Cancer Risk

Did you know that oral cancer affects more people now than any point in history? This can largely be contributed to a recently discovered “new cause” of oral cancer and subsequent different demographic group than what we have seen in past decades.

Oral cancer can be found in any area of your oral cavity, including the tongue, cheeks, lips, sinuses, throat, teeth, gums, roof of the mouth or below your tongue. It typically presents itself as a bump, sore or lesion that does not go away on its own. Oral cancer has been linked to following “traditional” risk factors:

  • Smoking or smokeless tobacco use
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Chronic oral infections, including cavities and gum disease
  • Sun exposure on the lower lip
  • Family history of cancer

Since most of the above causes are associated with the long-term exposure, middle-aged to elderly people have been stereotyped as a high risk group. However, when more younger patients were diagnosed with oral cancer (despite their little to no involvement with smoking or alcohol) scientific research got underway to reveal a new cause of oral cancer – HPV.

HPV Expands Oral Cancer Risk

Research results  showed that infection with the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is the number one cause of oral cancer in young men and women with no history of tobacco and alcohol use. HPV is a sexually transmitted virus, and most people are cleared of the virus within two years. Unfortunately, there is a certain strain of HPV that is stronger and more persistent. The HPV16 is an example of a strain that has been linked to oral cancer. The type of oral cancer that comes from HPV is typically found in the back of the mouth, or near the opening of the throat.

Detect Oral Cancer Early!

Whether your oral cancer is from HPV or chronic cigarette use, it is equally important to detect it early. In fact, early detection and treatment can save your life! This means that you need to not only visit your dentist for a routine oral cancer screening (performed at your yearly checkup) but you should also know the warning signs of oral cancer:

  • Sore throat that doesn’t heal in 14 days
  • Unexplained bleeding or numbness in your mouth
  • Dentures suddenly don’t fit the same
  • Sores in the mouth
  • Lump in your throat
  • Thick lining in your mouth
  • Loose teeth
  • Red or white sores in your mouth
  • Tongue pain
  • Jaw pain or stiffness when chewing

Some of these symptoms are commonly mistaken for cold sores or gum disease. Therefore, it is imperative that you let a dental professional decide whether an area of concern should be biopsied or investigated further. Keep in mind that the longer a sore lasts, the greater the risk for cellular changes.

To schedule your quick and painless oral cancer screening in New York, call Park South Dentistry! A simple screening can save your life.

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