Hundreds of thousands of people are diagnosed with oral cancer worldwide every year. Oral cancer includes cancers of the cheeks, lips, tongue, and throat. Like many other types of cancer, oral cancers are influenced by a variety of factors, including age, gender, and genetics.
However, there are some risk factors that you can control when it comes to oral cancer, and they are some of the most influential ones in whether or not you develop the disease. Here are the top three causes of oral cancer you should know about!
1. Tobacco Use
Tobacco use is the number one cause of oral cancers worldwide. In fact, 85 percent of oral cancers are linked to tobacco use . Tobacco includes chewing tobacco, smoking cigarettes, and smoking natural tobacco and cigars.
What about e-cigarettes? Although not technically considered tobacco use, vaping can also cause DNA mutations similar to those seen in cigarette smokers, and could increase your risk of oral cancer . In addition, research on marijuana use also tentatively indicates a higher risk of oral cancer, so when it comes to smoking, it’s best to avoid all forms!
Alcohol is the second biggest risk factor for oral cancer and has been linked to several types of cancers, not just oral cancer. Drinking and smoking combined is particularly harmful, and increases your risk of oral cancer even more .
Although heavy drinkers have the highest risk, research shows that even moderate consumption (one drink per day) can affect your oral cancer risk as well as your risk for breast, colon, and liver cancer . The safest thing you can do for your smile is to not consume alcohol at all, but if you choose to drink, go for moderation!
3. Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
HPV is a type of sexually transmitted infection that can, like the other risk factors on this list, increase your risk for several types of cancer. HPV is unfortunately common but is also preventable . It’s also one of the leading causes of oral cancers including those of the tonsils and the back of the tongue.
There are different strains of HPV, and while women can get tested, there is no HPV test that exists for men. There is also a vaccine against HPV that you may qualify for; you can talk to your doctor for more information!
Get an Oral Cancer Screening With Your Dentist
Getting an oral cancer screening is painless, doesn’t take long, an can help catch oral cancer early. Your dentist can conduct an oral cancer screening during your regular checkup, and can talk more with you about your risk for the disease. Talk to your dentist about oral cancer today!