When it comes to oral health, most of the people are focused majorly on reducing plaque, preventing bad breath, or avoiding cavities. We don’t really care about taking steps for preventing oral cancers. With an incidence rate of about 20 per 100,000 population, oral cancer (oral carcinoma) accounts for 30% of all cancers reported in India.
This potential fatal disease can interfere with the ability to talk, breath, eat, chew or swallow. But, with healthy lifestyle choices and a comprehensive oral care routine, you can prevent the occurrence of oral cancer. Scroll below to get a deeper insight into prevention of oral cancer.
- What is oral cancer?
- Risk factors of oral cancer
- Ways to reduce risk of oral cancers
What is oral cancer?
Oral cancer belongs to a larger group of cancers called head and neck cancers and refers to the development of tumor in the mouth and throat.
The cancer cells can grow anywhere within the mouth including the gums, palate, tongue, lips, and inner lining of cheeks. The throat, saliva secreting glands, pharynx, and the tonsils too are spots where such abnormal growths can appear.
Risk factors of oral cancer
The incidence of oral cancer or mouth cancer is propelled by the following risk factors:
- Heavy alcohol consumption can cause cancer
- Indiscriminate usage of tobacco in the form of chewable tobacco, cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, cigars, paan, and chewable betel nuts
- Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection
- Excessive sun exposure to the lips
- Previous diagnosis of oral cancer
- Weakened immune system
- Poor diet and poor oral hygiene
- Family history of oral cancer
Ways to reduce risk of oral cancers
Oral cancer is not just a painful ailment but is also life-threatening. Minimize the risk by adopting the following precautionary measures.
- Quit smoking
Smokers are at a raised risk of suffering from oral cancer in comparison with non-smokers. Smoking poses an extensive threat of getting oral cancer and should be promptly terminated. Also, stay away from secondhand smoke2
2. Limit the amount of alcohol you drink
Drinking excessive alcoholic beverages may irritate the cells in the mouth, making them more susceptible to oral cancer. Moreover, it can also weaken your immune system and the ability of the body to resist tumor growth.
Minimize alcohol intake to avoid falling prey to cancer of the mouth. The chances of getting oral cancer skyrocket if you both smoke and drink heavily.
3. Maintain a good oral hygiene
An unhealthy mouth is a breeding ground for detrimental infections. HPV infection is one of the primary causes for the development of cancers in the mouth. So, make it a point to regularly brush your teeth.
4. Stop using tobacco
Tobacco, consumed in any form (smoking or chewing), is extremely deleterious to oral health as it exposes the cells in the mouth to hazardous cancer-causing chemicals. Live a tobacco-free life as the habit of chewing tobacco may lead to the formation of malignant growths in the oral cavity.
5. Shield your lips from the sun
Spending too much time in the sun doesn’t just increase the risk of skin cancer, but it’s also troublesome for your beautiful lips. Your lips also need protection as prolonged ultraviolet exposure raises the risk of lip cancer. While stepping outside, use a protective lip balm with SPF, and reapply it after you eat or drink. Remember to wear a wide-brimmed hat to keep your lips shaded.
6. Choose healthy foods
Avoid fried foods. Consume a diet rich in colorful fruits and green leafy vegetables. Their antioxidant properties will improve the immune system and may empower your body to reduce the risk of cancer.
An active lifestyle boosts your immune system and may aid to diminish the chances of getting cancer. In a study by Ching-Chi Hsiang et al, oral exercise was found to remarkably improve the postsurgery swallowing function of patients having oral cavity cancers.
8. Visit a dentist regularly
If you are indulged in the habit of chewing or smoking tobacco, then you should visit an orthodontist to screen for mouth cancer. Even in the absence of such habits, scheduling dental check-ups twice a year is a wonderful way to ascertain good oral hygiene.
Ask your healthcare professional to examine the entire mouth for abnormal areas that may point out oral cancer or grave precancerous alterations. Your dentist can spot oral carcinoma in its nascent stage and warn you, therefore, enhancing the chances of recovery.
Make sure you don’t have sharp broken teeth or an ill-fitting denture as they can repeatedly cause injuries to tissues of the mouth and may elevate oral cancer risk. In such cases, a dental surgeon consultation is suggested.
9. Avoid chewing betel nuts or paan
Betel nut (also known as Areca nut) chewing is one of the predominant causes of oral carcinoma. In a meta-analysis by Steven J Thomas et al, betel chewing was found to be linked with a higher risk of oral cancer.
In another study by Anwar T Merchant et al, paan, whether or not it contained tobacco was found to increase the risk of oral cancer. Oral cancer risk was more among those individuals who used paan with tobacco. So, avoid chewing betel nuts in raw or processed forms (pan masala).
10. Get vaccinated for HPV
HPV, particularly HPV16, is considerably linked with oropharyngeal cancers. It is responsible for most cases of oral tumors, and equally impacts males and females. Unprotected oral sex can lead to the transmission of HPV, which in turn can manifest as mouth cancer. So, practice safe sex and get yourself vaccinated for HPV.
You should carry out an oral self-assessment at least once every month as it is a good way to spot and eradicate threats early. Thoroughly examine the back and sides of the tongue. If you notice anything suspicious like lumps, bumps, painful areas, or irregular colored (grey/red/white) patches, schedule an appointment with a dentist to get it examined instantly.
Reduce the risk of developing oral cancer and stay safe! Consult your dentist if you witness anything odd.