Since April is Oral Cancer Awareness month, I want to talk to our Saint Louis Smile Salon 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 states 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)
I certainly don’t want to scare my patients, I just want to make them aware of some of the risks. Oral cancer isn’t difficult to diagnose, but it’s often caught in later stages when it has likely metastasized (spread) to other areas of the body.
Who Gets Oral Cancer
We can’t predict who will get oral cancer, but we can list some of the factors that can put you at a much higher risk for oral cancer than other people:
- 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, a sexually transmitted disease known mostly for its role in genital cancers and genital warts, can also cause oral cancer
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
Our oral cancer screenings are quick and painless, and are part of our comprehensive exam process. We will biopsy any suspicious tissue so you get any critical information as quickly as possible.
Call our Saint Louis Smile Salon office to make an appointment for a checkup, especially if it’s been awhile since your last one! Prevention and regular health care are important for your dental health and your total well being!