Oral cancer is not an uncommon form of cancer. It affects millions of people worldwide every year. Oral cancer includes cancers that develop on the lips, tongue, cheek, floor of the mouth, hard and soft palate, sinuses, and pharynx (throat). The exact cause of oral cancers is not known but some factors which increase the risk of oral cancers are:
- Sex: Men are at twice the risk of developing oral cancer as women.
- Age: It is more common in people older than 50 years.
- Tobacco: Tobacco in any form (cigarette, cigar, or pipe smoking) increases the risk of oral cancer. If you are a smoker, you are six times more likely than a non-smoker to develop oral cancer. Use of smokeless tobacco products, such as dip, snuff, or chewing tobacco also increase the risk of oral cancers of cheek, gums, and lining of the lips.
- Alcohol: Excessive consumption of alcohol increases the risk of developing oral cancer by about six times than non-drinkers.
- Family history of cancer: Those with a family history of oral cancer are at higher risk of developing oral cancer than a person who has no family history at all.
- Exposure to sun: Excessive exposure to the sun from a young age increases the risk of cancer of lips.
Tips to prevent oral cancer: Many of the above mentioned risk factors such as age and sex cannot be changed. But two major risk factors for oral cancers, i.e. smoking and alcohol are modifiable. You can decrease your risk of oral cancers by adopting the following measure.
- Notobacco— Smoking (and other tobacco products) does not just increase the risk of lung diseases and lung cancer but many other diseases including oral cancer. Quitting smoking and other tobacco products is considered to be the best way to prevent oral cancers. Studies have shown that use of tobacco is a major risk factor for oral cancer. The risk of oral cancer increases with use of amount of smoking and use of other tobacco products. If you stop smoking or use of other types of tobacco it decreases the risk of oral cancers (even if you have smoked for years).
- Stop Drinking: As the risk of oral cancer increases in people who consume excess alcohol cutting down on the amount of alcohol you drink, can decrease your risk of oral cancers.
- Use sunscreen: If you are exposed to sunlight excessively use sunscreen and lip balms with UV protection. This can help to protect you from UV rays of the sun and lower the risk of lip cancer.