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Who's at Risk for Oral Cancer?

Oral cancer affects an average of 50,000 Americans each year. While tobacco use is often associated with increased oral cancer risks, it’s not the only risk factor. We know that there are several contributing factors when it comes to oral cancer — some are within your control while others aren’t. Dr. Lovely Manlapaz Teodoro of The Dental Center of Hercules offers oral cancer screenings at our Hercules, California, office.

In the meantime, you can learn more about who’s at risk for oral cancer.

Six risk factors that increase your risk for oral cancer

Like many conditions, there are some risk factors that are beyond your control. Some, however, are within your control. Exploring both types of risk factors can help you learn about healthy lifestyle changes you can make to support your oral health. In addition, oral cancer screenings can help detect any suspicious changes that develop in your mouth. 

1. Tobacco use

Smoking is often linked to lung cancer, but the reality is that any tobacco use can also increase your risk of oral cancer. This includes cigars, cigarettes, and pipes. Even if you’re not smoking, tobacco can still increase your risk of developing cancerous lesions. This includes chewing tobacco and snuff.

According to John Hopkins, oral cancer caused by tobacco often emerges as a red or red patch on your cheek, gums, or lips.

2. Excessive alcohol intake

According to the American Cancer Society, excessive alcohol intake can increase your risk of several different types of cancer, including mouth, throat, and voice box cancer. The risk increases even more if you smoke and drink together.

3. Excessive UV exposure

Sun exposure is one of the biggest causes of cancerous lesions on your lips. About 93% of all skin cancers and 50% of lip cancers are related to sun exposure over the course of your lifetime. You can protect your lips by avoiding all tanning beds and wearing a chapstick that contains SPF.

4.Certain infections

Human papillomaviruses (HPV) are common viruses, but certain HPV strains increase your risk of cancer. According to research published in a 2016 study, HPV-16 is linked to an increased risk of cancer in the cervix as well as the oral cavity.

5. A weak immune system

People with weak immune systems have a higher risk of developing a variety of illnesses and diseases, including oral cancer. Your risk of having a weak immune system is even higher if you need to take medications that suppress your immune system. 

A weak immune system is less likely to fight off an HPV infection, which may increase the risk for oral cancer.

6. Gender

Oral cancer can affect anyone, regardless of age, race, or gender. However, men are twice as likely to develop oral cancer. About 70% of oral cancer cases affect men.

When should you get an oral cancer screening?

It can be overwhelming to read about the risk factors for oral cancer, but it’s good to remember that early detection can save lives. During an oral cancer screening, Dr. Teodoro looks for any red flags or warning signs of oral cancer. Oral cancer screenings are painless and are easily incorporated into your regular dental exam.

To schedule an oral cancer screen, call our Hercules, California, office at 510-254-3328. You can also schedule an appointment on our website.   

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