Oral cancer continues to be on the rise. Every year, more and more Americans are being diagnosed with this disease. This year is expected to have 53,000 people diagnosed and only slightly less than half of that number will still be alive in five years. You can reduce your risk of this disease if you understand some of the causes of oral cancer.
How Oral Cancer Starts
Mouth cancer starts when cells that are in the lining of your mouth, or on your lips, are altered in their DNA. It is not yet clear what causes those changes, but it is understood what factors are most involved. Those factors include:
Smoking & Oral Cancer
Any use of tobacco can lead to oral cancer. It is known to be one of the primary mouth cancer causes. Tobacco reduces the blood flow and oxygen in your gums. This will not only hurt their health, but it also weakens the immune system in your gums. Smokers have a six-fold increased risk of developing oral cancer than non-smokers. Avoiding tobacco altogether is the only safe route if you want to avoid this cancer.
While many people think that smokeless tobacco is safer, it is not true. They have a likelihood of getting oral cancer that is fifty times greater than non-users. They are at risk of developing cancers of the lining of the lips, the cheeks, and the gums.
Heavy Alcohol Consumption
Drinking alcohol changes the biome in your mouth and throat. It first dries out the mouth, which limits the growth of good cells and promotes the multiplication of harmful cells. It also enhances the ability of cancer cells to enter healthy cells. Consuming large amounts of alcohol is not only one of the causes of oral cancer, but it can cause six other kinds of cancer as well. When smoking and heavy alcohol consumption are combined, it is even more likely that you will develop oral cancer than with either factor alone.
When your immune system is healthy, it is often able to destroy cancer cells before a problem develops. Your immune system needs the right kind of nutrition to keep it strong. It is also important to remember that when you take antibiotics and other medications that they can temporarily weaken your immune system. If you have HIV, AIDS, or other medical problems that weaken your immune system, you may need to supplement with vitamins and a healthy diet.
Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
The human papillomavirus is believed to be the one thing responsible for the ongoing increase of oral cancer. As a virus, it can lie dormant for up to 30 years, and then suddenly reveal itself as oral cancer. The virus is transmitted to the mouth and throat via sexual contact – oral sex. Most people’s immune system can eliminate it within two years, but it simply goes dormant in others. Having HPV does not mean for certain that you will develop oral cancer, but you are more prone to it. This is the same kind of cancer that causes cervical cancer in women.
Sunlight & Tanning Beds
Frequent exposure to ultraviolet rays, whether from the sun or a tanning bed, can lead to lip cancer and skin cancer. Getting less sun can help protect you from this cancer. Wearing a hat that is wide enough to cover your face and covering your skin when out in the bright sun can help prevent it. Avoiding tanning beds will also reduce your risk of lip or skin cancer. Applying a special sunscreen on your lips will also help.
Some types of cancer can also give rise to oral cancer. If you have had previous cancer, you are more susceptible to developing mouth cancer. Those cancers that will most likely lead to oral cancer include cancer of the esophagus, cervical cancer, penile cancer, and anal cancer.
Family History of Oral Cancer
If you have some family members or relatives that have had oral or throat cancer, you may be at a greater risk of it. Having the genes for it is another of the oral cancer causes. It does not necessarily mean that you will develop cancer, but it does mean that you want to have your dentist watch for it with regular mouth cancer screenings. These are normally conducted when you get a dental cleaning.
Sores in Your Mouth
If you have sores in your mouth, you need to know that these can change their structure and become cancerous. When sores exist in your mouth for more than two weeks, it is time to see a dentist for an initial analysis.
If you live in the Ahwatukee, AZ and Phoenix, AZ areas, you can get dental treatment at Imagine Dental. Our friendly dentists provide a wide range of dental services for the whole family – including checking for mouth cancer. You also want to stay away from the above causes of oral cancer.