HPV and Oral Cancer
Tobacco is notorious for causing oral cancer; so much so that many people believe oral cancer is only caused by smoking or chewing tobacco. While it’s true that most oral cancer diagnoses are in some way associated with tobacco, medical professionals are observing a new trend in oral cancer cases in which tobacco isn't the culprit, HPV is.
HPV (Human Papillomavirus) is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). There are more than 100 strains of HPV, but only one is strongly connected with oropharyngeal cancer, according to the CDC. More than 80% of Americans will have HPV infections in their lifetime, and more than 99% will have no symptoms or health-related problems.
If you think you may be at risk for oral cancer, consider lifestyle changes that may improve your health. You can lower your risk for oral cancer if you:
- Quit Smoking: Carcinogens in tobacco harm cells in your mouth.
- Wear sunscreen: People who spend a lot of time outside may be at more risk for lip cancer. Wearing a lip balm with sunscreen can greatly reduce your oral cancer risk.
- Don’t drink alcohol in excess: Your risk of oral cancer increases the more you drink. You have an even greater risk of oral cancer if you use tobacco products in addition to drinking.
- Maintain good dental hygiene: If you haven’t gone to the dentist recently, schedule an appointment. Eat more fruits and vegetables and limit the amount of sugars and starches in your diet. Brush and floss daily.
- Use protection: HPV is a sexually transmitted infection that can be avoided with proper safeguarding.