Top 5 Risk Factors of Oral Cancer

Oral cancer is a cancer of the lips and mouth that will not go away on it’s own if not treated. Common symptoms of oral cancer include swelling of the inner lining of the mouth, bumps, unexplained bleeding and numbness. Like most cancers, everyone is naturally at risk for being infected, with men over the age of 55 being most at risk. However, there are factors that increase the likelihood of contracting oral cancer.


1. Smoking Cigarettes and Chewing Tobacco

It goes without saying that any type of tobacco is bad for your overall health. People who smoke cigarettes are six times as more likely to get oral cancer than nonsmokers, and those who chew tobacco are 50 times more likely. Along with being one of the leading causes of lung cancer, smoking cigarettes can directly lead to cancer of the mouth and throat. Chewing tobacco is most commonly associated with cancer of the cheek, gums, and lining of the lips.

2. Excessive Alcohol Use

If you enjoy an occasional glass of wine with your dinner, not to worry - only heavy drinkers are at risk of receiving oral cancer. In fact, about 70% of people who have oral cancer are considered to be heavy drinkers. The risk of getting cancer is increased when combined with smoking by nearly 100% compared to nonsmokers and nondrinkers. 


3. Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

HPV is a sexually transmitted disease that causes warts on various parts of the body. It consists of a group of more than 150 related viruses, including cervical cancer. Oral cancer caused by HPV is harder to discover than those caused by smoking or alcohol use because of the less-obvious and painful symptoms. HPV16 is the kind most commonly associated with oral cancer, and affects males aged 35 to 55 the most. Because HPV isn’t commonly detected due to normal symptoms, it’s advised that you get a professional screening done every few years.


4. Sun Exposure

Being exposed to the sun for long periods of time will likely lead to cancer of the lips, causing inflammation and permanent swelling. People who regularly work outdoors are at increased risk for sun exposure on the mouth, leading to oral cancer. One of the main reasons why the mouth is so commonly affected is because when applying sunscreen, the average person doesn’t think to treat the mouth area along with arms and legs. The lack of protection from UV rays causes and increased likelihood of cancer on the lips. 


5. Poor Diet

Another common cause of oral cancer is having a poor diet, specifically a lack of vitamins and minerals such as iron and folic acid. In fact, eating healthy foods may even help prevent oral cancer. Foods that contain vitamins C and E such as citrus fruits and nuts are known as antioxidants, which help fight the effects of carcinogenic elements. 

The best way to prevent oral cancer is to get regular screenings in order to ensure total health for your mouth. Click here to schedule a screening appointment today. 

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