The Oral Cancer Series Part II: Am I At Risk?
Risk factors are often activities or habits we partake in without acknowledging the potential consequences. Repetition of these risk factors is what causes the damage, but we have all trained our brains to remind ourselves that “it won’t be me” that gets hurt. This is common among those who knowingly subject their bodies to bad habits. In order to protect yourself, you need to ask the question: Am I at risk for oral cancer? 1) Do I use, or have used, tobacco products? Tobacco products are a controllable risk factor. It’s easier said than done to quit, but it is possible. 75% of all oral cancer victims are tobacco users. Are you willing to risk it? 2) Do I drink, or used to drink a lot of alcohol?Drinking large amounts of alcohol puts your body at a higher risk of developing cancer. If you drink AND use tobacco products, you more than double your risk! 3) Do you spend a lot of time in the sun?People who spend a lot of time in the sun increase their risk of developing lip cancer. Protect your lips by wearing lip balm with a 15 SPF or higher. 4) Do you have a history of Human Papillomavirus (HPV) infection? HPV is a group of more than 100 viruses which are responsible for 20-30% of all oral cancer. 5) Do you have Erythroplakia or Leukoplakia? These red and white lesions, respectively, inside your mouth may evolve into cancerous cells if not treated in time. If you smoke and drink alcohol excessively, you should be asking your dentist to keep an eye out for these lesions so they could be treated before they become cancerous. 6) Do you care for your teeth?Making sure your gums and teeth are healthy could help offset the risk factors you can’t control. 7) Do you have risk factors you can’t control? a. Age – 90% of all oral cancer affects adults over the age of 45. b. Gender – Oral cancer strikes men 2 times more often than women. c. Race– African-Americans are one-third more likely to develop oral cancer than any other race. d. Hereditary– Some people are more prone to oral cancer than others. If you are engaging in any of these particular controllable risk factors, you may want to take a step back and ask yourself “Is it worth risking my life?” Whether you are at high risk or not, you should get screened for oral cancer regularly. Click here for the 3rd installment of The Oral Cancer Series.