While April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month, every month is a chance to help prevent oral cancer from growing. Oral cancer is known as a lifestyle disease, which means you can dramatically reduce your risk by adjusting your daily habits.
What you put into your body matters
Tobacco, alcohol and diet are among the biggest lifestyle factors that lead to oral cancer. Tobacco is involved in roughly 90 percent of oral cancer instances, while 7 out of 10 people who develop oral cancer drink heavily (defined as more than 7 drinks/week for women or more than 14 drinks/week for men). High levels of alcohol consumption decrease the body’s ability to absorb nutrients that may help prevent cancer. When combined with tobacco use, alcohol has an even greater chance of causing cancer. (For tips on to help quit tobacco use, check out our blog here.)
Another risk-increasing factor is not getting enough fruits and vegetables. Adding non-starchy fruits and vegetables such as berries and broccoli to a diet has been shown to reduce the chances of developing oral cancer.
The HPV risk
The human papilloma virus (HPV) is another leading cause of oral cancers, especially oropharyngeal cancers found in the back of the throat. Luckily, there is an HPV vaccine that’s effective against the most common strains of HPV that cause oral cancer. This vaccine only works before becoming infected, so it tends to be most appropriate for preteen and adolescent girls and boys.
Check for symptoms
When it comes to oral cancer, early detection can be a lifesaver. Perform home screenings and ask your dentist about oral cancer screenings during regular checkups. Mouth symptoms to look for include sores, red or white patches, persistent pain or numbness, lumps or rough spots, and issues chewing and swallowing.
By avoiding risk factors, adjusting your daily habits and staying vigilant for symptoms, you can help protect your future from oral cancer.