Causes and Risk Factors of Oral Cancer
Oral cancer is a type of cancer that can affect any part of the mouth, including the lips, tongue, cheeks, gums, and roof or floor of the mouth. Like any other form of cancer, it is caused by the abnormal growth of cells that can invade nearby tissues and spread to other parts of the body if not detected and treated in time. In this blog post, we will discuss the causes and risk factors of oral cancer, to raise awareness about this disease during Oral Cancer Awareness Month.
Causes of Oral Cancer includes-
One of the primary causes of oral cancer is tobacco use, including smoking cigarettes, cigars, and pipes, as well as using smokeless tobacco products such as chewing tobacco or snuff. Tobacco use can damage the cells in the mouth and throat, leading to the development of cancerous tumours. According to the American Cancer Society, people who smoke or use tobacco products are six times more likely to develop oral cancer than non-smokers.
Alcohol consumption is another significant risk factor for oral cancer. Drinking alcohol excessively can damage the cells in the mouth and throat, making them more susceptible to cancerous growth. People who drink alcohol heavily and smoke tobacco products have an even higher risk of developing oral cancer than those who only use one of these substances.
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a common sexually transmitted infection that can cause various types of cancer, including oral cancer. The HPV virus can damage the cells in the mouth and throat, leading to the formation of cancerous tumors. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), certain types of HPV are responsible for about 70% of all cases of oral cancer.
Poor Oral Hygiene
Poor oral hygiene can also increase a person’s risk of developing oral cancer. Failure to brush and floss regularly can allow harmful bacteria to build up in the mouth, leading to gum disease and other oral health problems that can increase the risk of cancer. Additionally, people who have dentures or other dental appliances that do not fit properly may be more likely to develop oral cancer.
Age and Gender
Like many other types of cancer, oral cancer is more common in older adults. People over the age of 50 are at a higher risk of developing this disease than younger people. Additionally, men are twice as likely as women to develop oral cancer.
Excessive exposure to sunlight can also increase a person’s risk of developing oral cancer, particularly on the lips. The harmful UV rays in sunlight can damage the cells in the lips, leading to the formation of cancerous growths. To reduce your risk of oral cancer caused by sun exposure, it is important to wear a lip balm or lipstick that contains sunscreen and to avoid prolonged exposure to sunlight.
In addition to the above causes, there are several risk factors that can increase a person’s likelihood of developing oral cancer. These include:
While most cases of oral cancer are not hereditary, people who have a family history of this disease may be more likely to develop it themselves. Additionally, certain genetic mutations may increase a person’s risk of developing oral cancer, regardless of their family history.
A diet that is low in fruits and vegetables can increase the risk of oral cancer. Fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamins and antioxidants that can help to protect the cells in the mouth and throat from damage. A diet that is high in processed foods and red meat, on the other hand, can increase the risk of oral cancer.
Exposure to Chemicals
Exposure to certain chemicals can also increase the risk of oral cancer. For example, people who work in industries such as petroleum refining, rubber manufacturing, or metalworking may be exposed to chemicals that can damage the cells in the mouth and throat. Additionally, people who use certain types of mouthwash or toothpaste that contain alcohol may be at an increased risk of developing oral cancer.
Immune System Deficiencies
People who have weakened immune systems due to conditions such as HIV/AIDS or who are taking immunosuppressive medications are at a higher risk of developing oral cancer. This is because a weakened immune system may not be able to fight off abnormal cells in the mouth and throat as effectively as a healthy immune system.
Prevention and Early Detection
While it is not always possible to prevent oral cancer, there are several steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of developing this disease. These include:
- Quitting smoking or not using other tobacco products
- Limiting alcohol consumption
- Practicing good oral hygiene by brushing and flossing regularly
- Eating a healthy diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables.
- Wearing lip balm or lipstick that contains sunscreen when spending time in the sun.
- Avoiding exposure to chemicals that can increase the risk of oral cancer.
It is also important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of oral cancer so that it can be detected early. These may include:
- Sores or ulcers in the mouth that do not heal.
- White or red patches in the mouth
- A lump or thickening in the cheek or neck.
- Difficulty swallowing or speaking.
- Persistent hoarseness
If you experience any of these symptoms, it is important to see your doctor or dentist right away for an evaluation.
In conclusion, oral cancer is a serious and potentially life-threatening disease that can be caused by a variety of risk factors. However, it is also a disease that can be prevented, and early detection can lead to successful treatment. By understanding the risk factors for oral cancer and taking steps to reduce exposure to them, such as quitting tobacco use and reducing alcohol consumption, individuals can lower their risk of developing this disease.
Additionally, practicing good oral hygiene and getting regular dental check-ups can help with early detection. It is important for individuals to be aware of the signs and symptoms of oral cancer and to seek medical attention if they occur. With proper prevention and early detection, oral cancer can be successfully treated, and patients can go on to live healthy and fulfilling lives. It is crucial that individuals prioritize their oral health and take the necessary steps to prevent and detect oral cancer.
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