In 2018, the American Cancer Society estimates that oral cancer afflicted approximately 51,540 people in the United States. And for many of those patients – a projected 10,030 people – the disease will prove fatal.
Is there a chance you could be diagnosed with oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancer?
The truth is, the disease can affect anyone. However, certain factors do increase the risk of developing oral cancer – and some are preventable.
Unavoidable Risk Factors for Oral Cancer
You simply have no control over some of the factors that raise the possibility of developing oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancer. You cannot avoid the risks of:
- Gender – Oral cancer is twice as likely to strike men as it is women.
- Age – Cancer is most often found in patients who are older than 55.
- Heredity – Certain genetic syndromes create a high risk for cancer in the mouth and throat.
- Family history – If a family member had the disease, your cancer risk rises.
Some other risk factors, including infection with human papillomavirus (HPV), the development of lichen planus or graft-versus-host disease and medical conditions or medications that weaken the immune system, may also be unavoidable.
Choices that Increase the Risk of Oral Cancer
Certain decisions you make heighten your chance of being diagnosed with the disease. Oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancer are more common in people who:
- Smoke cigarettes or use other forms of tobacco
- Regularly drink large quantities of alcohol
- Spend long periods of time outdoors in the sunlight
- Consume a diet low in fruits and vegetables
This isn’t to say that eating right, staying out of the sun and steering clear of tobacco and alcohol will eliminate your risk of developing the disease. However, doing so could definitely put the odds in your favor.
Reducing Your Oral Cancer Risk
Other than making the smart choices we mentioned above, is there anything else you can do to help prevent oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancer? Actually, yes – research shows that taking the following actions can help protect you from the disease:
- Committing to twice-daily brushing and flossing
- Getting regular exercise throughout the week
- Applying sunscreen to your face and lips before going outside
- Conducting monthly self-checks for changes in your mouth
Regular professional oral cancer screenings with an experienced oral and maxillofacial surgeon are also extremely beneficial. An expert in conditions of the mouth, face and neck can spot early warning signs that you may miss – and the sooner the condition is diagnosed, the better the chance of successful treatment.
When was your last professional screening? If it’s been awhile – or if you’ve never had one – make an appointment at Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery of Utah.
Based in Cottonwood Heights, South Jordan and Toole, Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery of Utah has provided expert, compassionate care to patients in the greater Salt Lake City are and throughout northern Utah for over a decade. To schedule a professional oral cancer screening, contact us today.