Oral Cancer (cont.)
Oral cancer: Who's at risk?
Doctors cannot always explain why one person develops oral cancer and
another does not. However, we do know that this disease is not contagious.
You cannot "catch" oral cancer from another person.
Research has shown that people with certain risk factors are more likely
than others to develop oral cancer. A risk factor is anything that increases
your chance of developing a disease.
The following are risk factors for oral cancer:
- Tobacco: Tobacco use
accounts for most oral cancers. Smoking cigarettes, cigars, or pipes; using
chewing tobacco; and dipping snuff are all linked to oral cancer. The use of
other tobacco products (such as bidis and kreteks) may also increase the risk
of oral cancer. Heavy smokers who use tobacco for a long time are most at
risk. The risk is even higher for tobacco users who drink alcohol heavily. In
fact, three out of four oral cancers occur in people who use alcohol, tobacco,
or both alcohol and tobacco.
- Alcohol: People who drink
alcohol are more likely to develop oral cancer than people who don't drink.
The risk increases with the amount of alcohol that a person consumes. The risk
increases even more if the person both drinks alcohol and uses tobacco.
- Sun: Cancer of the lip
can be caused by exposure to the sun. Using a lotion or lip balm that has a
sunscreen can reduce the risk. Wearing a hat with a brim can also block the
sun's harmful rays. The risk of cancer of the lip increases if the person also
- A personal history of head and neck cancer: People who have had head and neck cancer
are at increased risk of developing another
primary head and neck cancer. Smoking increases this risk.
Quitting tobacco reduces the risk of oral cancer.
Also, quitting reduces the chance that a person with oral cancer will get
a second cancer in the head and neck region. People who stop smoking can
also reduce their risk of cancer of the lung, larynx, mouth, pancreas, bladder, and esophagus.
are many resources to help smokers quit:
- The Cancer Information Service at
1-800-4-CANCER can talk with callers about ways to quit smoking and
about groups that offer help to smokers who want to quit. Groups offer
counseling in person or by telephone.
- Also, your doctor or dentist can help you find
a local smoking cessation program.
doctor can tell you about medicine (bupropion) or about nicotine
replacement therapy, which comes as a patch, gum, lozenges, nasal spray,
- The "National Cancer Institute Information
Resources" section has information
about the Federal Government's smoking cessation Web site, http://www.smokefree.gov.
Some studies suggest that not eating enough fruits and
vegetables may increase the chance of getting oral cancer. Scientists also are
studying whether infections with certain viruses (such as the human papillomavirus)
are linked to oral cancer.
If you think you may be at risk, you should discuss this
concern with your doctor or dentist. You may want to ask about an appropriate
schedule for checkups. Your health care team will probably tell you that not
using tobacco and limiting your use of alcohol are the most important things you
can do to prevent oral cancers. Also, if you spend a lot of time in the sun,
using a lip balm that contains sunscreen and wearing a hat with a brim will
help protect your lips.
Viewers share their comments
Oral Cancer - Symptoms
Question: What are the symptoms of your oral cancer?
Oral Cancer - Diagnosis
Question: How was your oral cancer diagnosed?
Oral Cancer - Side Effects
Question: Oral cancer treatment can make chewing and talking difficult. What side effects have been challenging for you?
Oral Cancer - Treatment
Question: What types of treatment or surgery have you had to treat your oral cancer?