What Causes Oral Cancer?
Every year, oral cancer kills nearly 10,000 Americans, and nearly 50,000 more will be diagnosed. Making up 3% of diagnosed cancers, a survival rate five years after diagnosis is only 57%. With these eye-opening statistics, we should all be concerned with early detection, treatment, and the causes of this deadly disease. So what causes oral cancer?
What is Oral Cancer?
Oral cancer is the development and growth of cancer cells on any surface inside the mouth, including your cheeks, the roof of the mouth, under or on your tongue, your gums and inside or outside on the lips. Oral cancer cells develop from healthy squamous cells, which make up the inside the surfaces of your mouth. The cancerous cells multiply and replace healthy cells to form tumors that can grow and spread throughout the body.
What Are the Symptoms of Oral Cancer?
Early signs of oral cancer can include a sore that does not heal; white spots; a red bump or spot that bleeds if you touch it; any lump inside the mouth, in the jaw or neck; unexplained and long lasting bad breath and other subtle signs that could be mistaken for a less serious condition.
What Causes Oral Cancer?
Oral cancer begins when the DNA of squamous cells in the mouth mutate, multiply and live longer than healthy cells in your body. Because they grow faster and live longer as they multiply, they replace the healthy cells at a faster rate than your body can respond to the threat. Spreading of cancerous tumors in the mouth to other parts of the body makes treatment less likely to succeed. No one knows why cancer starts, but there are risk factors that we can control.
Risk Factors for Oral Cancer
There are some of the factors that put people at higher risk to develop oral cancer and steps you can take to reduce your risk:
- Smoking or chewing (dip) tobacco – Oral cancer is just one in a long list of deadly and debilitating conditions that are likely to occur if you smoke or chew tobacco. Quitting tobacco will improve your health, longevity, and quality of life.
- Heavy alcohol consumption – Cutting back on drinking is another change that has a significant impact on your overall health.
- Unprotected sun exposure – your lips require protection from the sun as much as any other part of your exposed skin. Staying out of the sun or wearing a hat may be the best defense from mouth cancer that begins in the lips. There are also stick-type sunscreens that are designed for use on the lips. The higher the SPF the better.
- Compromised immune system – people who have an immune system that is weaker than usual due to another health condition or medication need to have regular oral cancer screenings so that any abnormalities are discovered right away.
- Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) – HPV is a sexually transmitted infection that often has no noticeable symptoms. There is currently no regular screening for HPV in the mouth. The best defense from cancer that develops from HPV is regular oral cancer screenings and reporting any possible symptoms to your dentist or physician.
Dentists are the healthcare providers who usually detect the first signs of oral cancer. Because early detection is so important to successfully treat oral cancer, your regular dental checkups can save your life.
Patients in the Las Vegas area trust the team at Dedicated Dental to care for their oral health, including thorough screenings to detect oral cancer. They treat patients from age 4 and up since 2006 at their office in Henderson, Nevada. Take this important step for your health. For an appointment, call (702) 566-5509 to speak with one of our friendly office staff today!