Oral cancer can develop anywhere in or around the mouth and has been identified as a variety of cancers associated with the head, neck, and associated anatomic structures.
Risk Factors for Oral Cancer
Often there is no obvious explanation as to why one person gets oral cancer and others do not. However, dental medicine has identified several factors that are intimately associated with increased risk of oral cancer.
- Tobacco and Alcohol Use: The majority of cases of oral cancer are related to tobacco and alcohol use. Approximately 90% of people who develop mouth cancer are tobacco users. Smokers are 6 times more likely than nonsmokers to develop cancer of the mouth. Those who drink alcohol are also 6 times more likely to develop oral cancer than those that don’t drink. Individuals who smoke AND drink are 15 times more likely to develop mouth cancer!
- Sun Exposure: Excessive exposure to the sun can contribute to the development of lip cancer. Consistent use of sunscreens and hats with a brim are often helpful in prevention. Smoking also substantially increases the probability of lip cancer.
- History of throat or neck cancer: People who have been diagnosed with another form of throat or neck cancer are more likely to develop a second cancer in the region. A family history of head and neck cancer also statistically increases the probability of a similar diagnosis.
- HPV (Human Papilloma Virus): The most sexually transmitted virus in the USA is now one of the primary risk factors. It is thought that this may be related to oral-genital contact.
Importance of Early Detection
Mouth cancers have a higher percentage of deaths per number of cases than breast cancer, melanoma and cervical cancer. However, overall survival rate is close to 60%. Survival rates with early discovery can be as high as 90%, thus the time line of detection is extremely important.
Since cancer is so prevalent in the mouth, in an effort to protect our patients we provide Vizilite Plus, Oral Cancer Screening. This is a painless, fast, and non-invasive test. An annual ViziLite Plus exam, in combination with a regular visual examination, provides a comprehensive oral screening and prevention procedure for patients at increased risk for oral cancer.
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