There’s no way of putting it lightly: oral cancer can be scary, and it’s certainly not a topic that dental patients are eager to talk about. But understanding the risk factors for oral cancer and openly discussing it with your dentist is crucial to ensure that any cancerous areas are addressed and treated as soon as possible.
What causes oral cancer? There are many different lifestyle and health factors that make it easier for oral cancer to develop, and making changes today could go a long way in protecting your mouth against oral cancer. Keep reading: in the sections below, we’ll outline the five most common risk factors so that you can determine whether you may be susceptible to oral cancer.
Could You Be at Risk for Oral Cancer?
While no two diagnoses are the same, understanding the risk factors can help you prevent oral cancer before it even has a chance to grow. See below for an overview of the most common risk factors for oral cancer.
As we get older, our mouths are more susceptible to decay and bacteria growth – and if you have maintained poor habits in your earlier years, the effects will worsen over time. The majority of oral cancers are detected in patients aged 60 and higher, but your risk of developing oral cancer will increase once you reach your 40s.
Patterns of oral cancer diagnoses show that men tend to develop oral cancer more frequently than women. In fact, for every woman who is diagnosed with oral cancer, two men will be diagnosed. Some studies have suggested that more-frequent lifestyle habits, such as smoking and drinking, may be the cause. Others suggest that HPV diagnoses may play a significant role in causing men to be more at risk (see below).
As the prevalence of the human human papillomavirus (HPV) increases, so have oral cancer diagnoses. HPV is thought to be the primary cause for as much as 70 percent of oral cancers in the U.S. Interestingly, this may even play a role in how each gender is affected; because men are slower to develop HPV antibodies, this could be a reason for increased numbers of men with oral cancers.
Using tobacco products puts you at a significantly higher risk of developing oral cancer, particularly if you are using smokeless products such as chewing tobacco or snuff. In fact, smoking will make you 10 times more susceptible to oral cancer.
5. Sun exposure
Prolonged and repeated sun exposure without the proper protection can be harmful to your skin, particularly the delicate skin around your mouth. UV rays can stimulate cell mutations on your lips, leading to oral cancer.
Decrease Your Risk for Oral Cancer Today
You may not be able to control all of the risk factors for oral cancer, but there are plenty of steps that you can take today to improve your oral health! If you are a smoker, quit as soon as possible. Excessive alcohol consumption has also been linked to oral cancer, so decreasing your intake will also decrease your risk. And if you like to spend long hours in the sun, wear a protective lip balm to shield the delicate skin on your lips from harmful UV rays.
Of course, your best defense in keeping your mouth healthy is maintaining a well-rounded oral hygiene routine. Regular brushing, flossing, and rinsing with mouthwash can all keep your mouth free from harmful bacteria and protect against decay and disease – including oral cancer! Don’t forget to schedule regular checkups with your dentist, too. They’ll help you spot any problematic areas and guide you toward the right treatment to ensure that oral cancer is addressed as soon as possible.
Are you experiencing one or more of the most common warning signs for oral cancer? Call Caputo Dental today! We can examine your mouth, discuss your unique risk factors, and help you create the best oral hygiene routine to minimize your risk of developing oral cancer.