Oral Cancer Risk Factors
Oral cancer will be diagnosed in more than 35,000 people in 2008, the American Cancer Society estimates. Take a look at these risk factors and see if you’re at risk for the disease.
Tobacco. Ninety percent of oral cancer patients use tobacco.1,2 Cigarettes, cigars, pipes, chewing tobacco, and snuff are all tied to oral cancer. Longtime heavy smokers are the most at risk.2 The risk rises for tobacco users who drink alcohol heavily.1,2
Alcohol. Between 75 and 80 percent of oral cancer patients drink alcohol often. The more you drink, the greater the risk.1
Sun. Lip cancer can result from sun exposure.1,2,3 Using a lotion or lip balm with sunscreen can cut the risk. So can wearing a hat with a brim.4 Exposure to sunlight raises your risk for lip cancer.2
Human papillomavirus (HPV). Those with HPV are more at risk for oral cancer. HPV may contribute to the development of about 20 to 30 percent of oral cancer cases.1,2
Gender. Men are more than twice as likely as women to get oral cancer. This is tied to their alcohol and tobacco use, which tends to be greater than women’s use.
Personal history of head and neck cancer. This increases the risk of developing another head and neck cancer. Quitting tobacco reduces your oral cancer risk. If you have oral cancer, quitting reduces the chance of developing a second cancer in the head and neck. Stopping or limiting alcohol consumption helps, too.2
1 “Oral Cancer.” American Cancer Society, 2007. www.cancer.org/downloads/pro/oralcancer.pdf Accessed 2010.
2 “Oral Cavity and Oropharyngeal Cancer.” American Cancer Society, August 17, 2010. http://documents.cancer.org/acs/groups/cid/documents/webcontent/003128-pdf.pdf Accessed 2010.
3 “Oral Cancer.” American Dental Association. www.ada.org/2627.aspx Accessed 2010.
4 “How Do I Protect Myself from UV?” American Cancer Society, June 11, 2008. www.cancer.org/cancer/cancercauses/sunanduvexposure/skincancerpreventionandearlydetection/skin-cancer-prevention-and-early-detection-u-v-protection Accessed 2010.
Online Medical Reviewer:
Eakle, Stephan W., DDS
Date Last Reviewed:
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The views represented by this article are that of the author and not of Delta Dental. This article is provided for information only. Please consult with a licensed dentist to discuss the best way for you to improve or maintain your oral health.
In all cases, specific group contract provisions, benefits, limitations and exclusions take precedence over oral health recommendations given here. We recommend that you contact your dental benefits carrier to determine the specific limitations and exclusions for your group.