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Oral cancer involves cancers that develop anywhere in the oral cavity. This includes the tongue, gums, lips, inner cheek lining, the floor of the mouth, and roof of the mouth. Additionally, oral cancer falls under the broader category of head and neck cancers.

Unfortunately, oral cancer has the potential to be fatal. Understanding the risk factors is an important step in preventing oral cancer throughout your life. 

The main risk factors of oral cancer include:

Tobacco Use

Tobacco use is the most prominent risk factor for oral cancer, as well as all head and neck cancers. Smoking cigarettes, cigars, and pipes, as well as using chewing tobacco and snuff, greatly increases your risk of developing mouth cancer. Additionally, the more often you smoke or use oral tobacco products, the higher your risk for mouth cancer. 

With 85% of head and neck cancer being connected to tobacco use, quitting smoking and/or using oral tobacco products is one of the most important steps that you can take toward preventing oral cancer. 

Alcohol Consumption

Frequently drinking alcohol is an oral cancer risk factor. Additionally, using both alcohol and tobacco can further heighten your oral cancer risk. 

HPV Infection

HPV (human papillomavirus) encompasses over 150 different viruses. Some types of HPV infection can trigger cancer, including mouth cancer. HPV16 is the most prevalent HPV type to cause oropharyngeal cancers. 

Given that HPV is a sexually-transmitted infection, practicing safe sex can help prevent it. HPV vaccinations are also available and recommended for teenagers. Receiving an HPV vaccine before being exposed to the virus can offer protection against oropharyngeal cancers. 

Sun Exposure

Prolonged sun exposure without proper protection is a risk factor for oral cancer. Limiting long periods of sun exposure can help reduce this risk. Additionally, applying sunscreen and lip balm with an SPF of at least 30 can protect you against UV radiation from the sun. 

To learn more about improving your oral health and reducing your oral cancer risk, schedule an appointment at 19th Avenue Dental today!