Since April is Oral Cancer Awareness month, I want to talk to all of our dental patients at Northcutt Dental Practice in Fairhope and our other offices 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)

These are scary numbers; oral cancer cases have increased 15% since the 1970s. Oral cancer isn’t difficult to diagnose, but what makes this particular cancer dangerous is that it’s often caught in the later stages, when it’s metastasized (spread) to other parts 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

Regular dental checkups with oral cancer exams are the best way to detect oral cancer early. If it’s been awhile since your last checkup, call any one of our three dental offices in Fairhope, Bay Minette, or Mobile to schedule an appointment today.

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