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How to Lower Your Risk of Oral Cancer

How to Lower Your Risk of Oral Cancer

Around 54,000 Americans are diagnosed with oral cancer each year. This potentially deadly cancer can’t always be prevented but you can significantly lower your risk of developing the disease. Before we dive into how you can lower your risk for oral cancer, let’s take a look at its causes and symptoms.

Symptoms of Oral Cancer

Physical signs of oral cancer include:

  • A lip or mouth sore that won’t heal
  • A white or reddish patch inside the mouth
  • Loose teeth
  • A growth or lump inside the mouth
  • Mouth pain
  • Ear pain
  • Difficulty or painful swallowing 

Causes and Risk Factors

Oral cancer occurs when cells inside the mouth experience a mutation in their DNA. This mutation is typically caused by:

  • Tobacco use of any kind
  • Excessive alcohol use
  • Excessive sun exposure to the lips
  • Human papillomavirus
  • A weakened immune system

Though factors like a weakened immune system can’t always be helped, most of the risk factors associated with oral cancer can be prevented with healthy lifestyle choices. The Mayo Clinic suggests making the following lifestyle changes to  lower your risk of developing oral cancer. 

  • Stop or don’t use tobacco of any kind, including vapes, cigarettes, cigars, and chewing tobacco. Tobacco exposes cells inside the mouth to dangerous cancer-causing chemicals. 
  • Avoid drinking alcohol or only have a drink in moderation. Alcohol irritates the mouth’s cells making them more vulnerable to cancer. Moderate alcohol use in healthy adults includes no more than one drink a day for women of all ages and men over age 65 and one to two drinks per day for men under age 65. (Note: We do not advise drinking alcohol on any level. However, this information provided by Mayo Clinic is important for those who intend to only drink moderately.)
  • Avoid excessive sun exposure to the lips. Wear a wide-brim hat and sit under an umbrella if you are going to be outdoors for an extended period of time. Don’t forget to pick up an SPF chapstick at your local dollar or drug store for easy lip protection. 
  • See your dentist regularly and follow proper daily oral care guidelines. You should brush your teeth at least twice a day and floss daily. You may also use an oral rinse to boost your cleaning efforts. 

Visiting your dentist regularly helps detect early signs of a problem like oral cancer and keeps your mouth healthy with professional cleanings. If it’s been a while since your last dentist appointment, there’s no better time than right now to schedule your next appointment. Click here to request a visit.

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