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Oral Cancer: Symptoms, Risk Factors and Reducing Your Risk

April 2, 2018.TruAssure.0 Likes.0 Comments

Oral Cancer: Symptoms, Risk Factors and Reducing Your Risk

dentist performing a dental exam

What is oral cancer? Oral cancer refers to cancer that starts in the mouth and generally, includes oropharyngeal cancer, which is cancer that starts in the throat just behind the mouth. The overall lifetime risk of developing oral cancer is approximately 1 in 60 for men and 141 for women.1 The prognosis for these cancers is good if caught early. If cancer has spread before diagnosis, the survival rate significantly decreases.

Dentists play an important role in this early detection as they are the first line of defense in noticing and spotting changes in your mouth that could potentially indicate disease.

Although a majority of people who develop oral cancer are over 60 years of age, people under the age of 40 have also been diagnosed in recent years making it clear that regular mouth exams are key no matter age.2 


The signs and symptoms of oral cancer may include the following:

  • Red or white patches in the mouth
  • Sores in the mouth that do not heal, including sores that bleed
  • Growths or lumps in the mouth
  • Loose teeth
  • Ill-fitting dentures
  • Jaw pain or stiffness
  • Difficulty or pain when chewing and swallowing
  • Sore throat

Make an appointment with your dentist (or doctor) if you experience any signs and symptoms that last more than two weeks.

Risk Factors

The risk for oral cancer can be increased due to:

  • Tobacco use
  • Heavy alcohol use
  • Continued lip exposure to the sun
  • Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
  • Weakened immune systems  

Reducing Your Risk

You can help reduce your risk of oral cancer with these lifestyle changes:

  • Visit your dentist for regular check-ups and exams. Your dentist can spot signs of oral cancer in its early stages during routine dental exams making it is critical that you visit regularly.
  • Avoid using all forms of tobacco. The use of tobacco exposes your body to dangerous and harmful cancer-causing chemicals. Quit tobacco to decrease your risk.
  • Eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables. Maintaining a healthy diet can be one of the best ways to promote overall and oral health. Try incorporating more healthy foods into your diet like fruits, vegetables and lean meats.
  • Avoid prolonged exposure to the sun. It’s important to keep your skin, including the skin on your lips protected each and every day. While in the sun, reapply SPF 30 or higher lip balm frequently or wear a brimmed hat to protect against harmful UV rays.
  • Drink alcoholic beverages in moderation. Frequent and heavy drinking increases the risk of oral cancers. People who use both alcohol and tobacco heighten their risk for oral cancer.

For more oral health tips, check out our blog.


1 American Cancer Society:
2 Oral Cancer Foundation:

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