What are Risk Factors for Oral Cancer?

When it comes to life-or-death questions like cancer, a little knowledge goes a long way. Studies show that identifying cancer early is the most significant indicator of treatment success. Identifying risk factors is one of the best ways to find cancer early in its development. 

What are the risk factors for oral cancer? Here at the Northeast Arkansas Center for Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, we’re proud to serve the people of Jonesboro and the region at large. A big part of that service includes informing you about early warning signs that could mean you or a loved one are at greater risk of developing oral cancer. If any of these risk factors apply, please speak with your doctor today. 

What is a Risk Factor? 

A risk factor is anything that makes it more likely that someone may develop cancer. This can include lifestyle factors, such as tobacco or alcohol abuse, as well as health considerations or genetic predispositions. 

Different types of cancers have different risk factors associated with them, with some overlap. Lifestyle factors can be mitigated by making positive lifestyle changes. Others, such as genetic predisposition or past health concerns, should be identified and taken as reasons to be cautious. 

Oral cancer is a generalization of a broad category of the different oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancers, but most of these share many of the same major risk factors. From the most common (squamous cell carcinoma) to the rarer variants, oral cancers should be watched for if you have any of the following risk factors: 

Tobacco Use 

Tobacco use is by far the most common and highest indicating risk factor for oral cancer. Most oral cancers are found in individuals who abuse tobacco in some form, whether it be smoking (cigarettes, pipes, cigars), chewing tobacco, or snuff. 

Over 90% of all oral cancer patients use tobacco. 

Alcohol Abuse 

Alcohol abuse is another serious lifestyle factor in developing oral or oropharyngeal cancer. Research published by The Lancet demonstrated a clear correlation between oral cancer and alcohol abuse, with an increased likelihood of developing a disease corresponding to increased consumption. 

Moderate users were shown to have a little-to-no increased risk of developing cancer. 

Human Papillomavirus Infection (HPV) 

A group of more than 150 similar human viruses, HPV is increasingly shown to be a significant risk factor for oral cancer. HPV is sexually transmitted through oral, anal, or vaginal sex, as well as close touching during intercourse. It is essential to use protection and always communicate with a new partner to avoid the spread of disorders such as HPV. 

Genetic Factors 

People with inherited genetic disorders such as Fanconi anemia and dyskeratosis congenita are at greater risk of developing oral cancer. Fanconi anemia is a blood disorder affecting the bone marrow, resulting in decreased production of all types of blood cells. Dyskeratosis congenita leads to a similar inability of the bone marrow to adequately produce healthy blood cells in enough volume. This often increases susceptibility to many forms of cancer, including oral cancer. 

What are Risk Factors for Oral Cancer?

What Should I Do? 

If you or someone you know suffers from one or more of these risk factors, it is essential that you maintain open communication with your doctor. Early detection is one of the best indicators of favorable outcomes regarding cancer treatment. It can mean the difference between life and death! Your doctors at the Northeast Arkansas Center for Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery are experienced and know what to look for, so give us a call today!