Oral Cancer: What’s Your Risk?

In honor of Oral Cancer Awareness Month, it’s the perfect time to help you understand this serious and potentially deadly type of cancer. While cancer anywhere in the body is unwelcome, it’s ugly consequences are less known when it comes to the mouth.

According to The Oral Cancer Foundation, nearly 48,250 Americans will be diagnosed with oral or pharyngeal cancer this year, causing 9,575 deaths, killing roughly 1 person per hour, 24 hours per day. Of those 48,250 newly diagnosed individuals, only slightly more than half will be alive in 5 years. Those are staggering statistics that are sure to get your attention about this type of cancer.

The most important fact about oral cancer is that it is highly treatable when caught early. Just like other cancers there are specific risk factors associated with oral cancer. Here’s some facts to help you determine your own risk:

Poor Nutrition
Never underestimate the power of what you eat. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables is known to decrease your likelihood of developing all cancers. Likewise, if you shy away from such nutritious foods, your oral health is at greater risk for the disease.
This is an obvious and important risk factor. If you smoke, consider yourself six times more likely to get oral cancer. Even those that chew smokeless tobacco are more vulnerable, with an increased risk of up to 50%! Kick the habit sooner rather than later if you want to avoid oral cancer.
Heavy alcohol consumption is also associated with high rates of oral cancer. However, when you combine drinking with smoking, you are essentially a “sitting duck” for oral cancer.
Ultraviolet Light
As the temperatures heat up outside, how likely are you to go bathe in the sun without proper protection? Unfortunately, prolonged sun exposure (UV radiation) is connected with oral cancer. This risk factor is easily reversed by regularly applying sunscreen to your lips.
Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
HPV is a sexually transmitted virus that has been linked to oral cancer in about 20% of those who have the disease.
There are certain risk factors that are unavoidable; age is one of them. Individuals who are 45 years and older are considered at a higher risk for oral cancer.

If you fell into one or more of the above risk categories for oral cancer, it is very important that you do two things: learn the symptoms of oral cancer and see your dentist on a regular basis for oral cancer screenings. To schedule your appointment, call Park South Dentistry today. We use advanced technology to detect oral cancer at its earliest, most treatable stage!

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