Cancer is “the C-word”, the diagnosis that we all hope we’ll never hear. Despite this, most of us know somebody fighting cancer. Nearly 2,000,000 new cases of cancer are reported every year in America, and more than 15 million cancer survivors have lived to tell their story.
Many aspects of cancer are out of your control, like your gender and genetics, but you do have the power to lower your risk for certain diseases like oral cancer.
What Is Oral Cancer?
Oral cancer is a potentially deadly type of cancer that forms in the mouth. Just like any other cancer, mouth cancer is known to develop gradually and without symptoms in its early stages. It’s possible for oral cancer to develop on the lips, gums, tongue, roof or floor of mouth, and inner lining of the cheeks.
Many people don’t readily identify the signs of oral cancer since so many symptoms overlap with other conditions:
- Loose and wiggling teeth
- A growth inside your mouth
- Mouth and ear pain
- Non-healing lip or mouth sore
- Colored patches inside of your mouth
This is why it’s so important to understand if your lifestyle habits and current health put you at higher risk for oral cancer. Early detection may save your life.
Common Risk Factors For Oral Cancer
Above all else, smoking is the largest risk factor for oral cancer. Cigarettes, cigars, pipes, and chewing tobacco all trigger DNA mutations that cause dangerous cells to grow and divide instead of die. Smoking also weakens the body’s immune system, which makes it easier for cancer cells to multiply. More than 70 of the 7,000 chemicals found in tobacco smoke are known carcinogens, including acetone, arsenic, and formaldehyde.
If you smoke, you’re automatically at higher risk for oral cancer than a non-smoker. A few other lifestyle choices and medical conditions may increase your risk for oral cancer as well:
- Heavy alcohol use
- Long-term unprotected sun exposure to your lips
- Pre-existing immune deficiency
- An STD called human papillomavirus (HPV)
Though there’s no proven way to prevent mouth cancer altogether, you can start by making healthier lifestyle choices and seeing your Beverly Hills dentist every six months.
How to Protect Yourself From Oral Cancer
Though oral cancer affects nearly 50,000 Americans every year and kills almost 10,000 adults annually, it’s actually highly treatable when detected early. A dental exam should include an oral cancer screening.
Just one quick oral cancer screening a year with can quite literally save your life! The earlier your dentist has the opportunity to detect signs of oral cancer like unusual swelling, discoloration, or ulcerations, the higher your chance of recovery.