Oral cancer is a broad term that includes any type of cancer that afflicts the area. This would include cancer of the lips, tongue, throat, tonsils, and mouth. According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, approximately 45,000 people were diagnosed with oral cancer in the US in 2015. What puts a person at risk for this type of cancer? A great deal depends on lifestyle.
Tobacco: A Major Factor
Tobacco use is one of the primary things that increases the risk of oral cancer. In fact, the risk increases the longer a person has used tobacco produces and directly correlates to how heavily tobacco is used.Both smoking and chewing put a person at risk.
Heavy alcohol drinking also increases risk. In fact, the combination of heavy tobacco and alcohol use can double a person’s odds of getting oral cancer.
The Effects of Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
HPV is a sexually transmitted disease that is primarily associated with cervical cancer in women. However, researchers have linked HPV with an increased risk of oral cancers as well. HPV is the most common STD, and individuals infected with it often get it again. Cancer risk increases with the number of times that a person is infected with the disease.
The Role of Age and Gender
Men are twice as likely to experience oral cancer as women are. This is primarily attributed to lifestyle since men are more likely to be heavy habitual smokers or drinkers.
Age is also a factor when it comes to oral cancer. The average age at which this health condition is diagnosed is 62. About 2/3 of people with oral cancer are over the age of 55
Decreasing Oral Cancer Risk
While there are a few risk factors that cannot be controlled, such as several rare genetic factors, the majority of behaviors that contribute to oral cancer are lifestyle choices. Tobacco use is the main factor, but quitting now can stop your odds from continuing to increase.
The same holds true of heavy drinking and risky sexual practices. In each case, the risk of cancer is increased by frequency. If a person were to quit smoking and drinking (or at least only drink in moderation) and practice safe sex, he or she would be able to stop their odds of being diagnosed with oral cancer from continuing to increase.
The longer these practices are continued, the greater the risk, so taking positive action today is the best way to save your mouth in the future. Don’t forget to keep your regular dental appointments as early detection is the key to successful treatment of oral cancer.