Oral Cancer Risks
January 30, 2013
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Oral Cancer



Incidence and Mortality

Statistics through the National Cancer Institute indicate oral and pharyngeal cancer strikes an estimated 39,000 Americans each year, with 8,000 people dying of these cancers annually.  An estimated 1 in 95 adults will be diagnosed with oral or pharyngeal cancer in their lifetime.


Risk Factors

Many risk factors are associated with oral cancer.  Two common risk factors are tobacco use and alcohol consumption. Heavy use of tobacco and alcohol together greatly increases the risk of developing oral and pharyngeal cancer.  HPV (human papillomavirus) infection is also associated with pharyngeal cancer.  Age is also a factor with cancer risk greatly increasing after 44 years.  Gender also plays a part since men are twice as likely to develop oral and pharyngeal cancer.  Ultraviolet (UV) light exposure is a particular risk factor for lip cancer (UV comes from sunlight and tanning beds).  Nutrition is important, as a diet rich in vegetables and fruits is associated with a lower incidence of oral and pharyngeal cancer.  Some experts believe some oral cancer risk factors are hereditary. 


Signs and Symptoms

Oral cancer can present itself in several different ways.  Different presentations include leukoplakia (white spots) or erythroplakia (red spots) that have been present for 2 weeks or longer.  It could be a lump or thickening of the oral soft tissues, or swelling that affects the fit and comfort of dentures.  Some people discover difficulty chewing or swallowing, or moving the jaw or tongue; a sore throat or feeling that something is caught in the throat; numbness; hoarseness or a change in the voice.  It can be a persistent ulcer or lesion that doesn’t heal (even ones without any discomfort). 

Signs or symptoms that persist for two weeks or more need to be evaluated by your dentist.  Sometimes it is necessary to see a specialist for a biopsy.  Early diagnosis and treatment are necessary for the best treatment outcome.  Call our office at (937) 434-8870 if you would like to have an oral cancer screening.