For Oral Cancer Awareness Month, consider these three lifestyle behaviors that can dramatically influence your risk of developing oral cancer. Widely reported on, HPV (human papilloma virus) is another cause of oral cancer and the HPV vaccine is now gaining awareness. Also, early detection, sometimes by your dentist, is another factor to consider when raising your awareness of oral cancer.
Tobacco and alcohol increase your risk
Tobacco, alcohol and your diet are three major risk factors for developing oral cancer, and all three can be controlled by you. Oral cancer is linked to tobacco in approximately 90% of cases. Alcohol, or heavy drinking, is present in 7 out of 10 people who develop oral cancer. Consider your use of alcohol and tobacco. For women, seven drinks per week, and, for men, 14 drinks per week, is considered heavy drinking. The body’s ability to absorb nutrients is decreased when your alcohol consumption is at these high levels. Those nutrients may help prevent cancer. Also, when combined with tobacco, your alcohol use increases your risk of developing cancer.
Choose fruits and vegetables
The foods you choose to eat also play a role in your risk of developing oral cancer. Your risk will increase if you don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables. Choices like berries and broccoli added to your diet has been shown to reduce your risk of developing oral cancer.
Link between HPV and oral cancer
HPV is another cause of oral cancer. Cancers found in the back of the throat, called oropharyngeal cancers, are especially linked to HPV. There is an HPV vaccine and it is effective against the most common strains of HPV that cause oral cancer. The vaccine is most effective when given in the adolescent years of boys and girls.
When you visit the dentist
Some dentist and oral hygienists perform oral cancer screenings during a regular checkup. Talk with your dentist to learn more. Early detection of oral cancer can save your life. You can also do your own screenings at home. Mouth symptoms to look for include sores, red or white patches, persistent pain or numbness, lumps or rough spots, and problems chewing and swallowing.
Being aware of the risk factors and the steps you can take, and early detection, are good protections against oral cancer.