What Are the Risk Factors for Oral Cancer?

Oral cancer is a severe and potentially life-threatening disease affecting thousands worldwide. Understanding the risk factors associated with oral cancer can help in its early detection, prevention, and timely intervention. 

It will be necessary to explore the various factors contributing to oral cancer development, including tobacco and alcohol use, HPV infection, sun exposure, age, diet, and family history. By being aware and knowledgeable about these risk factors, you can make informed decisions and take proactive steps toward oral cancer prevention and oral health. You can also contact a Brookline general dentist for assistance with oral cancer risk factors. 

Common risk factors for oral cancer:

  1. Tobacco and alcohol use

Tobacco and alcohol use are major risk factors for oral cancer. Smoking cigarettes, cigars, or pipes, as well as excessive alcohol consumption, significantly increase the likelihood of developing this disease. These substances contain harmful chemicals that damage the cells in the mouth and throat, leading to the development of cancerous cells. Quitting tobacco use and moderating alcohol consumption can significantly reduce the risk of oral cancer and promote better oral and overall health.

  1. HPV (Human Papillomavirus) infection

HPV (Human Papillomavirus) infection is a recognized risk factor for oral cancer. Certain strains of HPV, particularly HPV-16, and HPV-18, increase the likelihood of developing this disease. The infection is commonly transmitted through oral sex with an infected partner. Practicing safe sex and vaccinating against HPV can help reduce the risk of oral cancer. Regular dental check-ups and screenings are vital for early detection and timely intervention.

  1. Sun exposure

Sun exposure is a risk factor for oral cancer, specifically lip cancer. Prolonged and unprotected exposure to sunlight increases the chances of developing cancerous growths on the lips. Protecting the lips from harmful UV rays is crucial by wearing a lip balm with SPF or sunscreen. Limiting sun exposure, especially during peak hours, and wearing hats or using umbrellas can further reduce the risk of lip cancer.

  1. Age

Age is a significant risk factor for oral cancer. While it can occur at any age, the risk increases with advancing age, particularly after age 40. It is attributed to the cumulative exposure to risk factors over time. Regular oral cancer screenings become even more crucial as individuals age to detect any signs or abnormalities early on, allowing for timely intervention and treatment if necessary.

  1. Poor oral hygiene

Poor oral hygiene is a significant risk factor for oral cancer. Proper oral care practices, such as regular brushing, flossing, and dental check-ups, can contribute to developing this disease. Inadequate oral hygiene allows harmful bacteria to thrive in the mouth, increasing the likelihood of oral cancer. Taking care of your oral health through good hygiene habits is essential in reducing the risk of oral cancer and promoting overall well-being.