Tobacco And The Oral Cancer Connection

We have mentioned previously how tobacco is bad for your oral health. Most people are aware that tobacco increases your risk for tooth decay and gum disease.

But tobacco also raises your risk of a much more serious problem — oral cancer.

According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, more than 48,000 people will be diagnosed with oral cancer this year. This is a problem that we hope none of you or your loved ones ever face, but we also know that it’s possible for anyone to contract this disease.

At Marineland Dental Care, your oral health is our priority. This is why we provide professional cleanings, regular examinations, and treatments for a variety of problems at our dentist office in Kennewick, WA.

That’s also why we want you to understand the risks of oral cancer. April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month.

Tobacco Causes Oral Cancer

By now, everyone should be aware that smoking or using smokeless tobacco products is bad for your health.

Tobacco has been identified as causing a number of cancers, and it is the leading cause of oral cancer in the United States.

The Oral Cancer Foundation has noted that 75 percent of people 50 or older who are diagnosed with oral cancer are tobacco users.

Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco studied oral cancer patients, and they found that 80 percent of their subjects were smokers.

Another study looked at the effects of smokeless tobacco. The researchers compared women in rural North Carolina. The ones who used smokeless tobacco were 14 times more likely to have oral cancer than women who did not use tobacco.

This same study also showed that your risk of oral cancer increases the longer you use tobacco products. Long-term (25 years or more) smokeless tobacco users were found to be 50 times more likely to have oral cancer than people who did not use tobacco.

What’s In Tobacco Products?

Tobacco products have been found to contain 7,000 chemicals, including chemicals used as nail polish remover, rat poison, and lighter fluid.

These products also contain 70 chemicals that are known to cause cancer, the Oral Cancer Foundation reported.

Smoking has been connected to cancer in the following places:

  • esophagus
  • lips
  • nasal cavities
  • sinuses
  • the upper throat
  • voice box

In addition to its direct effect in causing cancer, tobacco also weakens your immune system. This can make it harder to treat cancer if you are diagnosed with it.

Other Causes Of Oral Cancer

While tobacco is easily the most common cause of oral cancer in the United States, it’s not the only cause.

The second leading cause is another common product, alcohol. In particular, heavy alcohol use increases your risk of oral cancer considerably.

Many people who use tobacco also consume alcohol, and this can compound the risks of using either one. Alcohol is known to dry out the soft tissues in your mouth. This makes it more likely that the chemical in tobacco products will be absorbed in those tissues.

To put it another way, using tobacco is bad for your oral health. Heavy alcohol use is bad, too. Mixing tobacco and alcohol is worse.

Another concern is HPV, the human papillomavirus. This is the fastest growing cause of oral cancer in the United States.

HPV is already widespread in the American population. Health experts estimated that 8 in every 10 people will contract this virus during their lives.

For every 100 people who are infected, 99 will show little or no ill effects. Most of us are able to deal with this virus easily. For the last 1 percent, however, HPV can develop into oral or cervical cancer.

Researchers have developed vaccines that can prevent HPV, which is good, but the vaccines only work if you receive them before you have contracted the virus.

Federal officials recommend routine vaccinations of females 11 and 12. Vaccines are also suggested for females 13 to 26 and males 9 to 26 who have not yet be vaccinated.

In 93 percent of cases, doctors can identify the cause of oral cancer in their patients. This means you can’t completely eliminate your risk of developing this disease, but you can take steps to reduce your risk.

Protect Your Health

Please go to the doctor if you see red or white discoloration of the soft tissues in your mouth, feel hoarse for an extended period of time, or have a sore in your mouth that lasts for more than two weeks. Other symptoms include lumps in your mouth or neck, the sensation of having something stuck in your throat, or trouble swallowing or moving your tongue or jaw.

The team at Marineland Dental Care wants to keep seeing you for years to come. To make an appointment for a cleaning and examination, call our dentist office in Kennewick, WA, at 509-591-0515 or fill out our online form.

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