*The following information was adapted from the ADA website.
Dentists are looking for more than just cavities at your check-up appointments! At each visit we do an Oral Cancer Screening that checks your throat, cheeks, tonsils, the back of the tongue and the floor of the mouth for any signs of cancer. Regular visits to the dentist can help to detect oral cancer early and will result in a better outcome for the patient. There are 42,000 new cases of Oral Cancer every year in the U.S. alone!
THE RISK FACTORS ARE:
- Tobacco use: smoking or chewing tobacco dramatically increases your risk of developing oral cancer. Smoking is associated with the risk of many other types of cancer, which we are still learning about. So, just don’t do it! Pipe smokers also have an increased risk of lip cancer.
- Alcohol use: 70% of oral Cancer sufferers drink heavily (defined as 2 or more drinks per day for men and 1 or more drink per day for women). Drinking alcohol plus smoking dramatically increases your risk of developing oral cancer.
- Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is a sexually transmitted disease associated with over 10,000 cases of oropharyngeal cancer in younger, often nonsmokers. It is usually hidden in hard to detect areas that only a health professional can find.
- Gender: men are twice as likely to develop oral cancer. This is largely because they do not visit the dentist often enough and are more inclined to use tobacco and alcohol.
- Age: the rate of oral cancer rises dramatically after age 44 and the median age of diagnosis is 62. With the increased risk from HPV that average age has dropped to 52-56.
- Sun Exposure: Sun has long been a factor in skin cancer and the most vulnerable skin is at the junction of the face and lip (the vermillion border). Anyone who spends time outdoors needs to apply lip balm with sunscreen of at least 15 spf. Keep it handy in your back pocket or golf bag and apply it liberally! The rate of cancer of the lips is on the rise, so be aware when working or playing outdoors!
- Diet: poor nutrition can increase your risk of developing cancer. Make sure to eat a varied diet with lots of fresh fruit and vegetables.
Knowledge is power, so be aware of potential problems before they strike!