Oral Cancer Prevention
Doctors cannot always explain why one person gets cancer and another does not. However, scientists have studied general patterns of cancer in the population to learn what things around us and what things we do in our lives may increase our chance of developing cancer.
Anything that increases a person's chance of developing a disease is called a risk factor; anything that decreases a person's chance of developing a disease is called a protective factor. Some of the risk factors for cancer can be avoided, but many cannot. For example, although you can choose to quit smoking, you cannot choose which genes you have inherited from your parents. Both smoking and inheriting specific genes could be considered risk factors for certain kinds of cancer, but only smoking can be avoided. Prevention means avoiding the risk factors and increasing the protective factors that can be controlled so that the chance of developing cancer decreases.
Although many risk factors can be avoided, it is important to keep in mind that avoiding risk factors does not guarantee that you will not get cancer. Also, most people with a particular risk factor for cancer do not actually get the disease. Some people are more sensitive than others are to factors that can cause cancer. Talk to your doctor about methods of preventing cancer that might be effective for you.
Purposes of this summary
The purposes of this summary on oral cancer prevention are to:
You can talk to your doctor or health care professional about cancer prevention methods and whether these methods would be likely to help you.
Oral cancer prevention
Significance of oral cancer
Oral cancer may develop in any of 3 main areas:
Salivary glands are located throughout the oral cavity and oropharynx.
The most common type of oral cancer is squamous cell carcinoma, which begins in the thin, flat cells that line the oral cavity. Squamous cell carcinoma usually develops from lesions on the mucous membranes, including leukoplakia (white patches) and erythroplakia (red patches). Other types of oral cancer include lymphoma, sarcoma, melanoma, and salivary gland tumors.
Oral cancer occurs more often in men. The number of women with tongue cancer, however, has increased in recent years.
Oral cancer prevention
Oral cancer is sometimes associated with known risk factors for the disease. Many risk factors can be modified but not all can be avoided.
Source: National Cancer Institute, www.cancer.gov
Last Editorial Review: 7/30/2008