According to the American Cancer Society, newly diagnosed cases of oral cancer are expected to total 54,010 in 2021. When discovered early on, treatment is likely to be successful — but for a projected 10,850 of the individuals who develop oral cavity or oropharyngeal cancer this year, the disease will prove fatal.
As of now, no one knows how to completely prevent oral cancer. That said, by making smart decisions, you may be able to lower your risk of developing the disease.
Unavoidable Risk Factors for Oral Cancer
There’s no getting around some of the risk factors for developing oral cavity or oropharyngeal cancer. You simply cannot control the following:
- Gender — Men are twice as likely as women to develop the disease.
- Age — Oral cavity cancer is more prevalent in people over the age of 45.
- Genetics — Certain inherited genetic conditions carry a high cancer risk.
- History — Oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancers tend to run in families.
Other risk factors — including contracting a human papillomavirus (HPV) infection and having a weakened immune system — may also be unpreventable.
Choices That Raise Your Oral Cancer Risk
Individuals who make certain lifestyle choices are at a greater risk of being diagnosed with oral cavity or oropharyngeal cancer. The disease is more common among those who:
- Smoke or use any form of tobacco
- Engage in frequent and heavy alcohol consumption
- Have excessive exposure to UV radiation from sunlight
- Eat few fruits, vegetables and plant-based foods
Steering clear of tobacco, limiting alcoholic drinks, using sun protection and eating healthy may not fully prevent oral cancer from developing — but making these decisions can definitely reduce the risk.
Habits that Help Prevent Oral Cancer
Research has yet to reveal a way to prevent the development of oral cavity cancer, but studies have shown that taking certain actions can be beneficial. To reduce the risk and improve the odds of early detection, experts recommend:
- Practicing good dental hygiene, including twice-daily brushing, flossing and scheduling regular checkups
- Establishing a regular exercise routine and maintaining a healthy weight
- Conducting monthly self-exams to look for abnormalities in the mouth tissues
Scheduling regular professional oral cancer screenings is also advised. An expert in diagnosing and treating conditions of the mouth, face and neck may notice early warning signs of cancer development — and spotting the disease early improves the chance of successful treatment.
If you have never had a professional screening, or if it’s been quite some time since your last exam, make an appointment at Richmond Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery. Our highly skilled team has more than a decade of experience in the diagnosis and treatment of oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancer, and we’re known for our compassionate, caring approach.