How You Can Minimise Your Risk Of Oral Cancer

A Wickford Dentist looks at this serious and growing problem.

We occasionally get asked by patients to give guidance and advice on the subject of oral cancer. In particular, how to minimise the risk of being diagnosed with it.

Oral cancer is defined as including cancer of the lips, tongue, cheeks, bottom of the mouth, both soft and hard palates, sinuses, and throat – and it can be life-threatening if not identified and treated early.

According to Cancer Research, one in 55 males and one in 108 females in the UK will be diagnosed in their lifetime, although the charity also highlights that 46% of cases in the UK are preventable.

The leading dentists at our practice have put together hints and tips, to ensure that patients and blog readers are better informed about the main risks and how to minimise them in everyday life.

What are the main causes of oral cancer?

According to the NHS, the main causes in the UK are alcohol and tobacco. This is due to the carcinogenic impact of both substances, which means that they contain certain chemicals that damage the DNA in cells, increasing the risk.

How common is oral cancer in the UK?

NHS statistics indicate that around 6,800 people are diagnosed with some kind of oral cancer annually in the UK, which is roughly 2% of all the cancers officially diagnosed. Furthermore, most of these cases in the UK occur in older adults aged between 50-74, according to research and figures from the NHS.

What are the risk factors that can increase the chances?

Although alcohol and tobacco usage are the leading causes in the UK, other risk factors can include excessive exposure to sun, a sexually-transmitted disease called HPV, as well as having a significantly-weakened immune system. Excessive use of alcohol and tobacco are still the main risk factors to increasing the change in adults, and our Wickford dental team recommend that the best approach is moderate alcohol intake only and no tobacco at all.

How can you minimise the risk?

Don’t use tobacco – any form of tobacco, including smoking, snuff, or chewing tobacco, as it can significantly increase the risk of developing oral cancer.

Drink alcohol in moderation – or not at all, if possible. Excessive alcohol intake can aggravate cells in the mouth, leading to more risk of oral cancer.

Stay out of the sun – protecting the skin on your lips whenever in the sun is essential in reducing the risk of oral cancer developing. Wear sunscreens.

Regular dental check-ups – an oral cancer examination from one of our Wickford dentists can help to detect the early signs of cancer.

What does an oral cancer examination involve?

Our dentists will happily perform an oral cancer examination as part of a routine check-up. During the examination, one of our dentists will check a patient’s face, neck, lips and mouth for signs of pre-cancerous activity.

What can you do to prevent it?

Although there isn’t any specific way to prevent oral cancer, Cancer Research UK has claimed that nine out of 10 cases are linked to lifestyle, so changing unhealthy lifestyle choices can help to minimise the risk of it developing.

Smoking is, according to Cancer Research UK, the single biggest factor in cases of oral cancer – accounting for 65% of all cases. This is avoidable. Although oral cancer is one of the more potential serious consequences of smoking, this habit is also a significant contributor towards gum disease and can also slow down healing, leading to other infections.

Other factors that our dentists recommend to reduce the risk include a healthy diet including plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, as well as good oral hygiene on a daily basis at home.

What can a dentist to do reduce the risks for you?

As well as having a formal examination with one of our dentists, we also recommend that patients discuss their ongoing daily oral health regime with us, to ensure that the best oral hygiene steps are in place.

What can you do at home to reduce the risks?

Our Wickford dental team also recommend that patients get to know their mouths and oral health, and to monitor carefully at home the condition of their lips, neck, mouth, gums and throat. For example, if you spot an ulcer or sore in your mouth or tongue that won’t reduce, or a lump on your lip or in your mouth, or a red or white patch in your mouth, or a lump in your neck these are all potential things to look for.

To read other blog posts our dental team have written on oral hygiene, please visit here.

To speak to one of our experienced dentists in Wickford, as well as booking a complimentary non-clinical consultation, please call us on 01268 733078 and mention this blog post.