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Who gets oral cancer?

Oral cancer strikes an estimated 34,360 Americans each year. People who smoke or drink alcohol are at an increased risk for the disease. In addition, African-Americans are especially vulnerable.

The best way to prevent oral cancer is to avoid tobacco and alcohol use. Regular dental check-ups, including an examination of the entire mouth, are essential in the early detection of cancerous and pre-cancerous conditions.
People who smoke or use tobacco products or who drink alcohol are more likely than other people to get oral cancer. Smoking and drinking together increases the risk sharply. People who are infected with one type of human papillomavirus (HPV 16) are also at risk of oral cancer. Poor dental hygiene or ill-fitting dentures or other mouth irritation are also risk factors, as is being a man and being over 40. Oral cancer is fairly rare: about 35,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with it every year. That's about 2% of all cancers diagnosed in a year.
There are factors such as smoking, alcohol use, infections, and genetics which have been considered as causal agents for oral cancer. However, having any of these factors does not guarantee that you will contract oral cancer. Conversely, not having these factors does not guarantee that you will not get cancer. The best advice is to remove as many of the risks as possible. 

At one time oral cancer was predominantly seen among smokers, however, increasingly, oral cancer is being seen in patients of all ages. Although smoking is still a leading factor, many other criteria such as age, family history, ethnicity and alcoholic consumption also play a role. Many experts have surmised that an increasing cause is exposure to the human papillomavirus (HPV), which is the primary precursor of cervical cancer. These various factors all point towards the need for better technology to assist in the early detection of this curable disease.

Continue Learning about Oral Cancer

How common is oral cancer?
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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.