3 Factors That Increase Your Oral Cancer Risk

Closeup of a dentist in a white lab coat holding a red and beige ribbon for Oral Cancer Awareness Month

Oral cancer can develop in your throat and on your lips, gums, cheeks, and tongue. We recommend getting regular oral cancer screenings to catch cancer as early as possible. These screenings are painless and included as part of a dental exam! Certain factors increase your risk of developing oral cancer. Here are the three most common:

  1. Tobacco Use
  2. There are thousands of chemicals in cigarettes. These chemicals increase your risk for oral cancer tenfold compared to non-smokers. Chewing tobacco or smoking a pipe or cigar isn’t any safer. They can cause lip, gum, cheek, and esophagus cancers. Additionally, smokeless tobacco products are still linked to cancer.

  3. Alcohol Consumption
  4. According to The Oral Cancer Foundation, alcohol abuse (which is defined as more than 21 standard drinks per week) is the second largest risk factor for oral cancer. While researchers aren’t exactly sure why alcohol can contribute to oral cancer, it is believed that excessive alcohol use could permanently damage the cells in your mouth and throat. Excessive drinking also increases your risk for other types of cancer, such as liver and breast cancer.

  5. UV Exposure
  6. Sunlight exposes you to ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Over time, this accumulated radiation can damage your cells and increase your risk for cancer. Your lips are especially vulnerable. While being outside in the sun can be beneficial for your physical and mental health, you need protection! Wear a hat, sunscreen, lip balm, and sunglasses. We recommend avoiding tanning beds, since they increase your oral cancer risk without the benefits of natural sunlight.

Oral Cancer Screenings in Gastonia, NC

Everyone should get a routine oral cancer screening, especially if you smoke, drink, and/or spend a lot of time in the sun! During this screening, we check for abnormalities like red or white patches in your mouth, lumps and bumps, swollen lymph nodes, and so on. If you experience mouth sores that won’t heal, persistent bad breath, or pain when you swallow, please let us know.

Have questions or want to schedule an appointment? Please reach out to Gastonia Family Dentistry today!


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