Since April is Oral Cancer Awareness month, I want to talk to our Garden City dental patients about the risks and prevention of oral cancer. It’s not a cancer that gets talked about much, but it can be very serious if it’s not caught early. The American Cancer Society has published that approximately 36,000 people in the U.S. will be diagnosed and nearly 7,000 people will die from oral cancer this year alone. (Source: ACS, revised 02.26.2013)
Those are big numbers, and I certainly don’t want to scare my patients! I just wante to make sure they are aware of the risks Oral cancer isn’t difficult to diagnose, but the thing to keep in mind is that this cancer is usually caught in later stages, when it’s spread to other parts of the body.
Who Gets Oral Cancer
We can’t predict who will get oral cancer, but there are some factors that can put you at a much higher risk for oral cancer:
- Smoking and other tobacco use. There is no “safe” tobacco product; the risk is just as high for chewing tobacco, pipes, cigars, clove cigarettes, and “smokeless” tobacco. The more you smoke, the higher the risk.
- Alcohol abuse. If you have more than 15 alcoholic drinks a week, it will put you at much higher risk. The combination of smoking and alcohol abuse puts you at 300 times greater risk for oral cancer. (Source: National Institutes of Health, 2006)
- HPV, the human papillomavirus, is a sexually transmitted disease known mostly for its role in genital cancers and genital warts. It’s now as much of a risk for oral cancer as tobacco and alcohol.
- Men are much more at risk than women, with black and Hispanic men at even higher risk. The risk increases as you age, faster after age 50. (Source: NIH, 2013)
Oral Cancer Dental Screening
Regular dental checkups with oral cancer exams are the best way to catch oral cancer early. If it’s been a while since your last checkup, why not give us a call at our dental office in Garden City today? We’d like to keep seeing your for a long time!