It is important to keep up your dental health for regular preventative and maintenance factors. However, did you know a very common disease: Oral Cancer is more prevalent than one might think? According to the oral cancer foundation, Close to 42,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral or pharyngeal cancer this year. It will cause over 8,000 deaths, killing roughly 1 person per hour, 24 hours per day. These staggering numbers impact those around us and could potentially affect you one day.
Oral cancer is particularly dangerous because in its early stages it may not be noticed by the patient, as it can frequently prosper without producing pain or symptoms they might readily recognize, and because it has a high risk of producing second, primary tumors. This means that patients who survive a first encounter with the disease, have up to a 20 times higher risk of developing a second cancer. This heightened risk factor can last for 5 to 10 years after the first occurrence. There are several types of oral cancers, but around 90% are squamous cell carcinomas. It is estimated that approximately $3.2 billion is spent in the United States each year on treatment of head and neck cancers. (2010 numbers)*
Risk factors for the development of oral cancer include:
- Smoking. Cigarette, cigar, or pipe smokers are six times more likely than nonsmokers to develop oral cancers.
- Smokeless tobacco users. Users of dip, snuff, or chewing tobacco products are 50 times more likely to develop cancers of the cheek, gums, and lining of the lips.
- Excessive consumption of alcohol. Oral cancers are about six times more common in drinkers than in nondrinkers.
- Family history of cancer.
- Excessive sun exposure, especially at a young age.
It is important to note that over 25% of all oral cancers occur in people who do not smoke and who only drink alcohol occasionally. Most assume that tobacco habits solely contribute to oral cancer. While smoking and chewing tobacco can primarily lead to most forms of oral cancer, there are new groups that have been discovered to be struggling with oral cancer. Younger age groups who never used tobacco are seeing this disease. Due to the HPV16 based virus, the human papilloma is seen to contribute.
The most important thing to remember is that it could happen to many people- even those who don’t smoke on a regular basis. At Cosmetic Dental Associates, using the latest technology, we take care in oral examinations to evaluate head/neck, jaw, mouth, teeth, gums, intra-oral/extra-oral soft tissues for mouth cancers signs. If you are concerned about possible symptoms, visit the Oral Cancer Foundation website for a list of signs and symptoms.
*Taken from Oral Cancer Foundation Facts