April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month! We know that oral cancer can be kind of a scary topic, but it is worth using this opportunity to learn more about the disease and spread the knowledge so that everyone can increase their awareness about this type of cancer. The more that we know, the better that we can all work to prevent it!
Oral cancer is exactly what it sounds like: cancer that occurs anywhere in the mouth. It could occur on the tongue, the lips, the gums, inside the cheek, or in the roof or floor of the mouth. Every year, more than 8,000 people die from oral cancer. It truly is a deadly disease.
The reason that oral cancer scores a higher death rate as compared to other cancers such as Hodgin's disease, thyroid cancer, or even skin cancer, is because it often goes undetected until it has become too advanced to treat. Unfortunately, due to the high vascularity or blood supply to the oral cavity, it can spread to other body parts more quickly if it is not treated early.
So what causes this devastating disease? There is no clear answer, but some potential causes have been identified. By being aware of these, we can be alert and promote prevention of this illness.
- AGE: Most patients who develop oral cancer are above 40. If you are over 40, make sure that your doctor checks you for the signs of oral cancer and that you stay on your dental hygiene regimen.
- TOBACCO: Excessive tobacco use, whether in the form of cigarette smoking or tobacco chewing, can be a substantial contributor and cause of oral cancer. So that is yet another reason, among many, to avoid all forms of tobacco.
- ALCOHOL: Excessive alcohl consumption can put you at risk because alcohol converts into a chemical call acetaldehyde, which damages the body's DNA and blocks cells from repairing the damage. When paired with tobacco, the dehydrating effects of alcohol make it easier for tobacco to infiltrate the mouth tissue.
- SUN EXPOSURE: Your lips ned SPF, too! Repeated sun exposure increases your risk of contracting cancer on your lips, especially the lower lip.
- DIET: Not getting all of the nutrients that you need, from vegetables and fruits for instance, can weaken your immune system and make you more vulnerable to the disease.