Oral cancer describes any type of cancer that occurs in the back of the throat or mouth. Symptoms can include soreness, irritation, swelling of the throat or jaw, red or white patches inside your mouth and difficulty swallowing or chewing, according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research.
Of course, it's always important to consult your doctor if you have any of these symptoms. Check out these oral cancer risk factors to see if you may be susceptible to the disease.
Alcohol and Tobacco Combined Increase Oral Cancer Risk
Alcohol and tobacco are known carcinogens and are linked to oral cancer. Many cancers are related to heavy alcohol drinking, which is defined as more than seven drinks per week for women or more than 14 drinks for men, per the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The alcohol fermentation process, which may include carcinogenic additives, is one reason alcohol is linked to head, neck, esophageal and liver cancer. When your body digests alcohol, the result can have a negative impact on your DNA and lipids, and it may lower your body's ability to absorb needed vitamins and minerals, like vitamins A, B, C, D and E, reports NCI.
Tobacco has long been known to be a primary risk factor for oral cancer. In fact, about 90 percent of people with the disease use tobacco, notes The Mouth Cancer Foundation. The use of alcohol and tobacco together creates an exponentially higher risk, according to OCF. The risk of oral cancer is "much greater" for those compared to people who partake in just one or the other. It's thought that alcohol, which dehydrates your mouth, weakens your cells' defenses in staving off carcinogens found in tobacco. These carcinogens enter your mouth tissue and elevate your risk of developing oral cancer.
HPV and Oral Cancer Link
It may be surprising that the human papillomavirus (HPV) is expected to overtake tobacco as the leading cause of oral cancer in the next 10 years, reports the Oral Health Foundation. HPV one of the most common sexually transmitted disease. For most people, the effects are short-term, lasting only two years, and the effects don't have a wide-reaching impact on your health. But for some infected patients, HPV affects tissue growth that may lead to oral cancer.
Diet and Age Can Lead to Greater Risk
Researchers point out that poor diet can be a by-product of heavy alcohol use and abuse. Nevertheless, a lack of necessary fruits and vegetables can also lead to higher exposure to the disease.
Additionally, studies show that the risk increases for those over 40 years old. Maintaining a healthy diet of fruits, vegetables, vitamin C, calcium supplements and antioxidants, like green tea, may lower your risk.
Lifestyle Alterations Lower Risk Over Time
Oral cancer has been coined a "lifestyle disease," according to the Mouth Cancer Foundation. Abstaining from heavy drinking for over 10 to 15 years is one way you can greatly decrease your chances of getting the disease. Stopping use of any tobacco products as soon as possible will also lower your chances of cancer, per the National Institute on Aging.
Keeping your mouth healthy includes more than just daily brushing and regular dentist visits. Practicing a healthy lifestyle is integral to your good oral care. Products like Colgate Peroxyl Mouth Sore rinse, which promotes the natural healing of minor mouth irritations, can help ease discomfort. If you think your lifestyle contains oral cancer risk factors or have questions about causes, always consult your dentist or doctor.