The staff of the Sacramento Dentistry Group is concerned about your health. One major form of disease diagnosed by dentists is oral cancer. The American Cancer Society states that in 2015 over 45,000 Americans will contract oral cancer and nearly nine thousand will die of the disease. Many others will succumb to the sickness before 2020. Early diagnosis is important, as twice as many patients survive if the cancer is detected quickly. For early detection, our Sacramento dentists use the VELscope screening device to identify suspect tissues in the area of the mouth and throat. Although detection is important, the best defense against oral cancer is avoiding risk factors entirely by making healthy lifestyle choices.
Increasing the Oral Cancer Risk
The best way to avoid oral cancer is to 1) be a woman, and 2) not be over age 40. Women have half the incidence of oral cancer as men and young people are less likely, but not immune, from developing the disease. Obviously, our gender is given at birth and aging affects us all. Therefore, here are the behaviors that increase the chances of developing oral cancer and that are often factors when it appears in young adults and older patients.
- Tobacco use in all its forms;
- Frequent alcohol consumption;
- HPV infection;
- A diet lacking in vegetables and fruits;
- Too much sun exposure (leading to lip cancer).
Both tobacco use and excessive alcohol consumption are risk factors by themselves. Combine them and you have the most potent method of increasing your oral cancer risk. Infection with human papilloma virus (HPV) is also predominant in a specific form of oral cancer. 67% of oropharyngeal cancers (affecting the throat, back of the tongue, tonsils and soft palate) contain HPV. HPV is transmitted both with and without sexual contact, but eighty percent of sexually active people are infected with at least one form of HPV. Taking precautions against sexually transmitted disease is the best way to reduce this additional risk factor. Unfortunately, unprotected sexual activity tends to be found with alcohol use, once again combining risk factors for potentially devastating results.
Is There Any Good News About Oral Cancer?
Quitting tobacco and limiting alcohol use sharply reduce the risk of developing oral cancer, even after many years of use.” — American Cancer Society
As indicated by the American Cancer Society, if you stop any of the above risk factors, you start to reduce the chance that you will be one of the relative few with oral cancer. If you believe you have any of the symptoms of oral cancer, please arrange a consultation with one of our dentists immediately. If your life includes any of the aforementioned risk factors, ask about the VELscope screening system whenever you have a dental exam. Remember that while the Sacramento Dentistry Group can help diagnose and treat oral cancers, the best way to “cure” cancer is to prevent it!