Did you know that more than are diagnosed with oral cancer each year? Unfortunately, the survival rate for those suffering from oral cancer is much lower than for other cancers—only about half of those diagnosed will likely be alive five years later. At Blevins Dentistry, we offer routine oral cancer screenings to ensure early detection and hopefully increase patients’ chances for survival.
Early detection is important, but avoiding oral cancer in the first place is even better. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to decrease your risk for oral cancer.
By far the best thing you can do to decrease your risk of oral cancer is to quit smoking.
Most people with oral cancer use tobacco in some form. Smoking can cause cancer anywhere in your mouth, throat, larynx, lungs, esophagus, kidneys, bladder, and elsewhere, according to the . Pipe smoking in particular can increase your risk for lip cancer.
Keep in mind that all tobacco products carry a risk for cancer, including non-smoking products like “chew” or “dip.” Additionally, these products also carry a risk for gum disease and tooth loss.
Smoking is probably the most famous risk factor for oral cancer, but did you know your alcohol intake can increase your risk as well? Nearly 70% of oral cancer patients are heavy drinkers. Decreasing your alcohol intake is important in limiting your risk for oral cancer.
Things are worse if you suffer from addiction to both smoking and drinking. If you’re a heavy drinker and a smoker, your risk is estimated to be 100 times higher for oral cancer than it is for people who don’t smoke or drink.
When you go to the beach, you probably know to put on sunscreen to protect your skin from the sun’s damaging ultraviolet (UV) light. But before you step outside, make sure your lips are protected as well with a lip balm that provides some form of sun protection.
One day in the sun isn’t enough to cause cancer. However, if you work outside on a regular basis, wearing SPF lip balm may decrease your risk for oral cancer. This applies to jobs that take place outdoors, such as construction, as well as jobs that may involve high exposure to sunlight through windows, such as truck driving.
Has anyone in your family had oral cancer? What about other types of cancer? Your family history may indicate a greater likelihood of developing cancer at some point in your life, including oral cancer.
However, keep in mind that your family history does not guarantee a specific outcome. You can still adopt healthy habits, like quitting smoking and drinking, that will greatly reduce your risk for oral cancer.
Although not an official risk factor, studies have indicated that poor oral hygiene may increase your risk for oral cancer. It makes sense—poor oral hygiene habits can result in gum disease, tooth loss, and even facial collapse. If you’re worried about your risk for oral cancer, practicing good oral hygiene—brushing twice a day, flossing daily, and getting your teeth cleaned twice a year—can go a long way in protecting your oral health in general.
Getting an oral cancer screening doesn’t necessarily reduce your risk for getting oral cancer in the first place, but it may increase your chances of survival if you do get diagnosed with the disease. This is because early detection is a key factor in successful treatment of oral cancer. The earlier we can spot signs of oral cancer, the earlier we can treat it, which will increase your chances of survival.
Our Mullins, SC, preventive dentist provides oral cancer screenings to protect patients’ oral health and overall health. To schedule your next screening, call Blevins Dentistry today at (843) 561-4039, or contact us online.