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Risks Associated with the Development of Oral Cancer


Updated June 01, 2012

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Oral cancer is a problem that affects thousands of patients in the US, and around the world, on a yearly basis. What starts out as simple dental problems may have the risk of developing into oral or mouth cancer, which is the reason why even the simplest dental problems need to be monitored to ensure that they do not develop into more serious concerns.

Concerned About Having Oral Cancer?

If you have you experienced a dental problem that does not heal by itself, or even with the aid of medications - it is best to have this problem checked by your dentist not only to rule out the early symptoms of oral cancer, but for your peace of mind as well. While this does not mean that you need to panic every time you have a simple dental problem (such as mouth sore), you need to arm yourself with as much information about oral cancer as possible, so that you will be able to fight back against this problem if the need arises.

Knowing more about the causes or risk factors involved in the development of oral cancer can help you in fighting back against this illness - and may even save you from the development of this cancer altogether.

Oral Cancer Risk Factors/Causes

  • Smoking and the use of tobacco products is the biggest risk factor for the development of oral or mouth cancer. Those who regularly smoke or use tobacco products have a much higher oral cancer risk compared to non-smokers.

  • Heavy consumption of alcohol, especially on a regular basis, puts a person at a higher risk for the development of oral cancer problems. The combination of heavy alcohol consumption and significantly increases oral cancer risks.

  • A diet, which is composed more of red meat than fruits and vegetables, increases the risk for the development of mouth cancer. A person whose diet consists mostly of red meat and very little fruits or vegetables has a higher risk of developing oral cancer.

  • Excessive exposure to the harmful rays of the sun, as well as to sun beds and sunlamps, can increase the risk factor for developing oral cancer.

  • Individuals who have been infected by the human papillomavirus (HPV) have a greater oral cancer risk, compared to those who have not been infected by the HPV.

  • Oral cancer risks are increased when a person is exposed to cancer-causing chemicals or substances, such as asbestos or formaldehyde.
Sources: "What You Need to Know About Oral Cancer". Cancer Topics. National Cancer Society: What You Need to Know About Oral Cancer. 09 Sptember 2004. Accessed May 4, 2012. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/wyntk/oral/page9
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