Risk Factors for Oral Cancer: Are You High Risk?

Just as with any medical condition, certain factors put us at higher risk for developing it. The biggest of all risk factors for oral cancer is tobacco use, which accounts for over 80% of all cases. However, there are many other risks involved, and it’s essential to know your level of risk.

Tobacco & Alcohol Use

Tobacco is the most significant risk factor for oral cancer. The type and location of cancer largely depend on the type of tobacco used. For example, those who smoke pipe tobacco are more susceptible to lip cancer in the area that most often contacts the pipe stem. Chewing tobacco can cause cancer in the cheeks, gums, and inner lip where the chew is most often located. While alcohol alone is one of the risk factors for oral cancer, tobacco use and frequent alcohol intake together significantly increase risk.

HPV Infection

HPV is an infection spread through sexual activity and oral sex can lead to infection of the tonsils or the base of the tongue. Depending on the strain of HPV present, your risk for cancer may be low or very high. If you are at risk for contracting HPV or you already have, your dentist should regularly check for signs of cancer.

Gender & Age

Two of the risk factors for oral cancer that we have no control over are gender and age. Studies show that men and those over 45 are at increased risk.

Weight & Diet

A diet low in fresh fruits and vegetables can contribute to your risk for oral cancer. However, a poor diet can increase the risk for many health problems, including diabetes, high blood pressure, and other forms of cancer. Following a sensible diet and maintaining a healthy weight is recommended. If you aren’t sure where to start, your health provider can help.

Sun Exposure

Exposure to UV rays, like those from the sun or tanning beds, increases skin cancer risk. It can also increase the risk for lip cancer. While many think of applying sunscreen and a face moisturizer with SPF protection before going out, very few people apply a lip balm that offers SPF protection.

Certain Genetic Disorders

Some genetic disorders are risk factors for oral cancer. The defects in specific genes make those with these disorders more susceptible to mouth and throat cancer. Two of these syndromes are Fanconi anemia and dyskeratosis congenita.

If you have any of the above risk factors for oral cancer, you should discuss them with your dental care provider. They may suggest some baseline tests or order biopsies if anything looks suspicious. The best way to treat oral cancer is as soon as possible with early detection so call Katy Cypress Oral Surgery & Implant Center today at (281) 667-0607 to schedule an appointment.