Am I At Risk for Oral Cancer?
Determining an individual’s risk for oral cancer is a complex process that involves looking at a person’s age, sex, race, genetics, and lifestyle. Often the appearance of cancers is a combination of several factors, however just one risk factor on its own is enough to cause this serious disease. As is true with most cancers, risk of development increases as you age-most oral cancer patients are over the age of 55. Patients are also twice as likely to be men, and African American men are at the highest risk based on sex and race. Though not always associated with developing oral cancer, your family’s health history is crucial when looking at your own risk. Certain genetic conditions, like fanconi anemia and dyskeratosis congenita, increase the risk of oral cancer up to 500 times over the general population. It’s also important for your dentist to know if any of your family members have had any type of oral or throat cancers.
Lifestyle plays a critical role in the risk of developing any cancer. One or both of tobacco use and significant alcohol use are seen in patients over 70% of the time, according to Cancer Centers of America. You may experience an increased risk if you use chewing tobacco as your drug of choice. Additionally the tobacco found in cigarettes put you at risk for throat cancer. These lifestyle choices, when combined with other risk factors, increase the likelihood of oral cancer up to 100% over non-smokers and non-drinkers. It is especially important to drop these unhealthy habits if you have other risk factors
Here’s the good news: your dentist screens you for risk and signs & symptoms of oral cancer every time you come in to get your teeth cleaned. Symptoms can range from a persistent mouth sore to pain in your lips, gums, or tongue. Don’t be alarmed if you experience one of these symptoms already-it doesn’t mean you have cancer! As with any issue with your mouth and teeth, it’s best to get it checked out as soon as possible. Dr. Carter and her team are happy to assess any area of concern at your next visit!