Oral cancer affects approximately 35,000 people every year. Of those, nearly 8,000 will die. Oral cancer is very real, very prominent, and very scary. At our offices, we’re here to help you understand the disease and know the risks associated with it.
Before we dive into some risk factors of developing oral cancer, it’s important to note that anyone, despite having or not having any risk factors, can get oral cancer. However, some people are more likely to suffer from the disease than others. While many of the risk factors are unavoidable, there are some we can control. Risks include:
- Gender: Men are two times more likely to develop oral cancer than women. This may be in part because the likelihood of men participating in other risk factors is greater than women.
- Age: The average age of diagnosis is 62, and the majority of oral cancer patients are at least 55.
- UV Rays: Those whose jobs or leisure activities are outside are at increased risk for oral cancer, as well as other cancers. If you have to or choose to be outside, wear protective sunscreen.
- Tobacco Use: 80% of oral cancer diagnoses are in people who use tobacco, including cigarettes, cigars, or smokeless tobacco.
- Alcohol: Nearly 70% of those diagnosed with oral cancer are heavy drinkers.
- Alcohol + Tobacco = DANGER! If you drink alcohol in large amounts often, and partake in smoking or smokeless tobacco, your chance for oral cancer can be as high as 100%.
Knowing the signs and symptoms of oral cancer can increase your chance of survival greatly. The earlier the cancer is caught, the more successful treatment can be. Keep an eye out for the following:
- Chronic bad breath
- Sore(s) that don’t go away
- A lump on the cheek
- Difficulty swallowing
- Changes in your voice
If you do notice any of the signs above, call your dentist right away.
Regular dental checkups are important for many reasons, but a really important one is to catch oral cancer early. If it’s time that you see a dentist, give our offices a call to schedule an appointment today. You never know, one visit could save your life.