Did you know that Oral Cancer Awareness Month is in April? In honor of this important month, we want to talk about how to prevent oral cancer. Oral cancer is a type of cancer that affects the mouth and throat. It can be deadly if not detected early, so it’s important to be aware of its symptoms and risk factors. In this blog post, we will define oral cancer, discuss the benefits of early detection, and list the top risk factors for developing this disease. Finally, we will share five ways that you can prevent oral cancer from affecting your life!
What is Oral Cancer?
Oral cancer is a type of cancer that can develop in any part of the mouth or oral cavity, including the lips, gums, tongue, and cheeks. It can also affect the upper part of the throat. Oral cancer is often treatable when caught early, but it can be deadly if not detected early. That’s why it’s important to be aware of its symptoms and risk factors.
The symptoms of oral cancer can vary depending on the location of the cancer. However, some common symptoms include:
- A sore or lump that does not go away
- Bleeding in the mouth
- Pain in the mouth or throat
- Difficulty swallowing
- Persistent bad breath
- Numbness in the mouth or lips
- A change in the color of the skin in the mouth
If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s important to see a doctor right away. Early detection and treatment is key to surviving oral cancer.
Risk Factors for Oral Cancer
There are several risk factors that can increase your chances of developing oral cancer. These include:
This is the most common risk factor for oral cancer. Any form of tobacco, such as cigarettes, cigars, and chewing tobacco, all significantly increase your risk of developing oral cancer.
Drinking alcohol excessively can also increase your risk of developing oral cancer. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that two drinks daily for men and one drink daily for women is considered excessive.
Ultraviolet (UV) light exposure:
This includes both sunlight and artificial UV light, such as from tanning beds.
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a common sexually-transmitted virus that can lead to cancer. More and more oral cancer cases are being attributed to HPV infections.
Oral cancer is more common in people over the age of 55. However, it can affect people of all ages. HPV-related oral cancer has been known to affect younger individuals.
Men are about twice as likely as women to develop oral cancer. Some theorized this is because men are more likely to consume excess amounts of alcohol and tobacco.
If you have any of these risk factors, it’s important to be extra vigilant about oral cancer symptoms.
Five Ways to Prevent Oral Cancer
There are several things you can do to decrease your risk of developing oral cancer. These include:
This is the most important thing you can do to reduce your risk of oral cancer. If you smoke, or use any type of tobacco products, quit today. Even former tobacco users have a lower risk of oral cancer compared to current users.
Limit alcohol consumption:
If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. Excessive drinking can increase your risk of oral cancer. Even drinking a few less alcoholic beverages weekly can help decrease your risk.
Protect your lips:
When you’re out in the sun, use a lip balm or sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher to protect your lips from UV damage. This is especially important if you spend a lot of time outside in the sun. You should also minimize the use of tanning beds and protect your lips as necessary.
See your dentist regularly:
Your dentist will screen for oral cancer during your regular checkups. In fact this is part of why having dental exams twice a year is so important. Be sure to see them every six months. This allows your dentist to identify any possible symptoms early on. If they notice anything, they will likely refer you to your primary care physician for more testing.
A healthy diet can help reduce your risk of developing cancer. Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables helps keep your immune system strong. This can fight off HPV infections, which as we discussed is a risk factor for oral cancer. Incorporating more whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats into your diet is also beneficial.
In this blog, we have discussed five ways to prevent oral cancer. By following these tips, you can decrease your risk of developing this disease. Remember, oral cancer is more common in smokers and heavy drinkers. If you have any risk factors for oral cancer, be sure to see your dentist regularly for checkups. Eating a healthy diet and protecting your lips from UV light are also important in preventing oral cancer.
Be sure to share this blog with anyone you know who might be at risk for oral cancer. Together we can help spread awareness and save lives!