If you aren’t practicing oral cancer prevention, now’s the time to start.
When Ben Franklin said, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” he could have been talking about oral and oropharyngeal cancer. The disease is treatable when caught early enough, but unfortunately, many cases aren’t discovered until the later stages when the cancer has progressed. At this point, treatment is much more difficult.
Prevention is definitely the best medicine. How can you reduce your risk of developing oral cancer?
No. 1: Brush and Floss Regularly
If you don’t brush and floss routinely, gum disease and tooth decay can set in. An unhealthy mouth can compromise your immune system, which can affect your ability to fight off oral cancer.
No. 2: Don’t Use Tobacco Products
Smoking has been linked to many different types of cancer, including that of the head, neck and oral cavity. Chewing tobacco isn’t safe, either. To greatly reduce your chance of developing oral or oropharyngeal cancer, stay away from tobacco in any form.
No. 3: Drink Alcohol in Moderation
Alcohol is known to be a big risk factor for oral and oropharyngeal cancer, particularly when used along with tobacco. If you drink, limit your alcohol consumption. According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), heavy drinking — consuming 3.5 or more drinks per day — can increase the risk of certain head and neck cancers by two to three times.
No. 4: Eat a Healthy Diet
Research has not yet revealed a magic food or dietary component that definitively works for oral cancer prevention. Black raspberries, green tea and several other ingredients seem promising, but scientists aren’t certain if any will end up as part of a future anti-cancer treatment. But a healthy diet has been associated with a reduced cancer risk.
No. 5: Exercise Regularly
An active lifestyle can strengthen your immune system, which may help with oral cancer prevention. For the biggest benefit, the NCI says to aim for at least 150 minutes per week of moderate physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity. And exercise throughout the week — not in one long burst.
No. 6: Protect Yourself from Sun Exposure
Repeated exposure to the sun can increase the likelihood of cancer in the lips. You might be religious about applying sunscreen, but if you’re like many people, you may forget the lips. Stay out of the midday sun, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., and apply a lip balm with an SPF 30 or higher before heading outside.
No. 7: Conduct Monthly Self-Exams
When’s the last time you did a self-exam for oral cancer? Self-checks should be done monthly — add the task to your calendar so that it doesn’t slip your mind. Not sure what to look for? Ask your oral surgeon to demonstrate the process the next time you’re in for an appointment.
No. 8: Have Regular Professional Screenings
Our final oral cancer prevention tip is to make an appointment for a professional screening today. Regular expert screenings with an oral surgeon can detect early warning signs, giving you your best chance at successful treatment.
If you live in the Salt Lake City area, the professionals at Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery of Utah can provide you with an expert assessment. Contact our Cottonwood Heights, South Jordan or Tooele office to discuss oral cancer prevention and treatment today.