7 Ways to Prevent Oral Cancer

Woman eating vegetables
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Our mouths play a much larger role in our day-to-day life than we think. Your lifestyle directly influences your oral health, and the long-term possibility of disease in the mouth should influence your habits.  

Each year, thousands of Americans are diagnosed with oral or pharyngeal cancer. The biggest worry is that the mortality rate of oral cancer is particularly high, with roughly one person per hour dying as a result.

If we’re to prevent oral cancer, we need to be mindful of easy-to-follow lifestyle measures that can help you both lower risk of oral cancer and/or increase the likelihood of early diagnosis and successful treatment.

What Is Oral Cancer?

Cancer that is developed in the oral cavity is called oral cancer and is also known as head and neck cancers. Oral cancers generally develop in the tongue and in the mouth walls. It can spread through the lymphatic system and bloodstream to other parts of the body, including lymph nodes, neck, and lungs.

Early detection of the cancer will give the best prognosis. So we should be alert and observe any changes that are taking place in our mouth like swellings, ulcers, lumps, spots, discoloration, etc., that lasts more than two weeks. If you suspect oral cancer, consult a dentist immediately to check whether these changes could be cancer.

Causes of Oral Cancer

Research has found that lifestyle is a major determinant in developing oral cancer.

The following are the risk factors for oral cancer:

  • Tobacco: One of the most prevalent causes of oral cancer is the prolonged use of tobacco. More than 80 percent of oral cancer cases occur to those who consume tobacco. Alcohol consumption may further increase a smoker’s risk of oral cancer. This may be because of the dehydrating effect of alcohol on cell walls of the soft tissues, which enables the tobacco carcinogens to penetrate the mouth tissues more efficiently.
  • Sun exposure: Prolonged sun exposure without a sun protection factor (SPF) to any part of your body increases the risk of cancer called Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC) that can damage the skin on the face and the lips.
  • Diet: A diet low in vegetables can increase the risk of oral cancer. Including more fruits and vegetables into your diet plan can help reduce this risk.
  • Human Papilloma Virus (HPV): New research has linked HPV virus, which is the virus known to cause genital warts and cervical cancer, to oral cancer. The HPV virus can be sexually transmitted from partners, which could be the reason for an increasing number of young, non-smoking oral cancer patients.

Signs and Symptoms of Oral Cancer

The following are the signs and symptoms of oral cancer that we have to be aware of:

  • red and/or white patches spotted anywhere in your mouth
  • an ulcer or sore in your lip or mouth that often bleeds and remain unhealed
  • an uncured blood blister
  • a painless lump
  • a roughened or crusted area
  • experiencing numbness inside mouth
  • loose teeth/sore gums
  • taste difference
  • swollen lymph glands
  • ear ache

7 Lifestyle Factors to Help Prevent Oral Cancer

  1. Quit smoking – Tobacco contains at least 50 carcinogens that are linked to cancer. Studies indicate that there is a definitive link between the use of tobacco products and the development of oral cancer. One study conducted at the University of California, San Francisco, found that more than eight out of 10 oral cancer patients were smokers.
  1. Eliminate or reduce your intake of alcohol.
  2. Protect your skin from prolonged sun exposure. Apply broad-spectrum SPF sunscreen to any exposed skin, including your lips. Lip balms with high SPF rating can be used for lip protection.
  3. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, especially those with high concentration of antioxidants like mangoes, berries, grapes, apples, watermelon, onion, garlic, pumpkin, eggplant, carrot, spinach, cauliflower, tomatoes, and broccoli.
  4. Keep up with your oral hygiene routine, including brushing and flossing.
  5. Visit your dentist regularly for checkups.
  6. Consult a doctor immediately if you observe any symptoms developing. Remember, the sooner oral cancer is diagnosed, the better the prognosis can be.