Regular dental checkups can detect oral cancers early, before they’ve spread, and your dentist will probably see the signs before you do.
By Lynn Yoffee
Medically Reviewed by Pat F. Bass, III, MD, MPH
Oral cancer can affect any part of the mouth, lips, or the back of the throat. About 35,000 Americans are diagnosed with some forms of oral cancer each year, and of those, approximately 7,500 will die from the condition. Most oral cancers — about two-thirds — are found in the mouth, while the rest are found in the pharynx, a part of the throat that’s just behind the mouth and nasal cavity.
Who Is at Risk for Oral Cancer?
You are at increased risk of developing oral cancer if you: ·
- Use tobacco products.Tobacco use — smoking cigarettes, pipes, or cigars, or using snuff or chewing tobacco — causes 75 percent of all cases of oral cancer. ·
- Drink alcohol. Heavy alcohol use, especially when combined with tobacco use, increases your risk of developing oral cancer. ·
- Get too much sun, which can increase your risk of developing lip cancer. ·
- Eat an unhealthy diet, which can increase your overall cancer risk. ·
- Are over the age of 40. Most people who are diagnosed with oral cancer are over 40. ·
- Are male. Oral cancer is twice as likely to affect men as women.