Risk Factors and Signs of Oral Cancer
Oral cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer, and it is the 6th deadliest type. At Sterling Dental Center, we take dental health seriously, which is why we offer oral cancer screenings to prevent and detect issues early on.
In recognition of Oral Cancer Awareness Month, keep reading to learn your oral cancer risks so you can defend yourself against this disease.
Oral Cancer Statistics
The American Cancer Society’s most recent estimates for oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancers in the United States for 2021 are:
- About 54,010 people will get oral cavity or oropharyngeal cancer.
- An estimated 10,850 people will die of these cancers.
- Men are twice as likely as women to develop oral cancer.
- Over the past 30 years, the death rate for these cancers has decreased.
- On average, patients that are 62 are most commonly diagnosed.
- Oral cancer is rare in younger patients and children, but still possible.
Where Does Oral Cancer Form?
There are multiple places where oral cancer can form and how it’s identified.
- Oral cavity cancer: also known as just oral cancer, starts in a patient’s mouth (oral cavity).
- Oropharyngeal cancer: starts in the oropharynx (the part of the throat just behind the mouth.
Most cancers that form in the throat are a type of cancer called squamous cell carcinoma, though other types of benign growths and tumors, can also form.
Oral cancer can form in the following sites:
- Tonsils and oropharynx.
- Gums and floor of the mouth.
- Other parts of the mouth.
- Minor salivary glands (roof of the mouth).
How Does Oral Cancer Form?
In general, cancer forms when cells in the body start to grow out of control. Scientists are unsure about what causes each case of oral cavity or oropharyngeal cancer — but they do know many of the risk factors associated with cells becoming cancerous.
Several factors can lead to oral cancer, but a patient’s age is the most common. Since most people don’t think about the possibility of contracting oral cancer, they don’t take the necessary steps to check for it regularly.
The most common risk factors of oral cancer include:
- Tobacco use.
- Alcohol use.
- Marijuana use.
- Patients with HPV.
- Patients 45 years and older.
- Patients who have fair skin.
- Patients with a poor diet.
- Prolonged sun exposure.
- Patients with graft-versus-host disease.
- Patients who are immunocompromised.
- Patients that have a genetic predisposition or syndrome.
- Gender (men are more prone to oral cancer than women.)
Patients at a Heightened Risk
According to the American Society of Clinical Oncology, chewing tobacco or snuff is associated with a 50% increase in cancer risk in the cheeks, gums, and inner surface of the lips. Most who are diagnosed with oral cancer are over the age of 40 and are tobacco users.
Additionally, several studies have linked patients with gum disease to have an increased risk of oral cancer. This is why taking proper care of your smile is essential not just to your dental health but also to your overall health.
Oral Cancer Screenings at Sterling Dental Center
Our comprehensive oral cancer screenings at Sterling Dental Center utilize state-of-the-art cancer detection devices that can identify initial signs of oral cancer before the human eye can see it. Our technology can also help discover soft tissue abnormalities and lesions that might otherwise be missed.
Our full oral cancer screening protocol includes:
- Lifestyle/Risk Assessment.
- HPV tests of the saliva.
- Regular oral cancer screenings.
- Brush biopsies, which are also known as oral CDX.
- Referrals to a pathologist whenever necessary.
Prevention and early detection are key to your oral health. Call us at (318) 374-1411 to book your free consultation and oral cancer screening.