Oral Cancer (cont.)
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Who's at risk for oral cancer?
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:
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.There are many resources to help smokers quit:
Some studies suggest that not eating enough fruits and vegetables may increase the chance of getting oral cancer. Human papilloma virus is a common viral infection. Today, it is emerging as another important risk factor. Research now suggests as many as half of oropharynx cancers are caused by HPV infection.
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.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/28/2014
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