This April marks the 18th annual Oral Cancer Awareness Month, a nationwide effort to spread awareness and knowledge about oral cancers to Americans. In the United States, over 50,000 people are diagnosed with some form of oral cancer each year. Currently, oral cancers result in one death nearly every hour of every single day, each and every year. Luckily, however, many of these deaths can be prevented by educating yourself and your loved ones on this topic. In addition to education, one key to mitigating your risks is to regularly visit a Buffalo dentist you can trust.
What are the risk factors?
As with many cancers, the risk of developing oral cancer increases with age. Men are twice as likely to develop oral cancer than women, with most people being over the age of 55. Anyone can get oral cancer, however. The following key factors may increase your likelihood of developing the disease.
The health risks of smoking or chewing tobacco are well documented, but mouth cancer can often be overlooked. The truth is, smokers and chewing tobacco users are three times more likely to develop mouth cancer. They are also seven times more likely to be diagnosed with throat cancer. Research has shown that ex-tobacco users can reduce their risk of mouth cancer by more than a third. And with around two-thirds of tobacco users admitting they would like to kick the habit, Oral Cancer Awareness Month could be the perfect time to do just that!
Drinking alcohol in excess is another major risk factor linked with mouth cancer – associated with around a third of all cases. Drinking responsibly and in moderation is key to managing your risk. The danger lies with those who drink alcohol to excess. Heavy drinkers can increase their risk of mouth cancer by up to 30 times. That’s why it is especially important that this group visits the dentist regularly for examinations and check-ups.
Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
HPV is quite common. In fact, nearly every sexually-active person will contract HPV at some point in their lives. Most people with HPV never develop symptoms or health problems, and 90% of HPV infections go away by themselves within two years and don’t affect the health of most people. But sometimes, HPV infections persist and may cause a variety of serious problems. In fact, many experts believe the human papillomavirus (HPV), transmitted mostly through oral sex, will overtake tobacco use as the main cause of mouth cancer within the next decade. Limiting the number of partners you have, practicing safe sex, and routinely being tested/going for check-ups will greatly reduce the risk.
Did you know that up to half of all mouth cancer cases are partly due to poor diet? A diet rich in fruit and vegetables will keep your body fit and healthy. It will also help to greatly reduce the risk of mouth cancer.
How can I protect myself?
In addition to following the advice listed above, it is important to regularly perform self-examinations. Early detection is the absolute key to surviving and beating oral cancer, and a simple exam could very well save your life. Regularly performing self-checks, and more importantly, visiting your Buffalo dentist or East Amherst dentist regularly for check-ups, will ensure that you stay in full control of your oral health and minimize your risk of oral cancer.