Smoking and Oral Cancer

Feb 14th, 2012 | By | Category: Dental News, Preventive Care

oral cancer

Is there a connection between smoking and oral cancer?

We’ve already covered the fact that cigarettes and other tobacco products increase your risk of gum disease and subsequent tooth loss. As if tooth loss, lung cancer, heart disease, and emphysema aren’t enough reasons to quit, you can add one more serious health problem to that list: oral cancer. Smokers and users of other tobacco products are six times more likely to develop oral cancer than nonsmokers. Here’s what you need to know about oral cancer and why you need to quit smoking now.

What are the symptoms of oral cancer?

Oral cancer is characterized by the growth of malignant cells on the lips, tongue, cheeks, and throat. The most common symptoms include:

  • White or red patches in the mouth
  • Unexplained bleeding in the mouth
  • Lumps, rough spots, or swelling on the lips or in the mouth
  • Numbness or tenderness anywhere in the mouth or face
  • Chronic sore throat or hoarseness
  • The feeling of a lump in the throat
  • Any unusual changes in the mouth or throat
  • Unintentional weight loss

How does smoking cause oral cancer?

Because cigarettes contain over 60 carcinogens, smoking is the greatest risk factor for oral cancer. Tobacco introduces cancer-causing agents into the oral cavity, which includes the mouth, throat, and sinuses. These chemicals not only damage the lining of the oral cavity, but they also lower the body’s immune system, which makes you vulnerable to all types of cancer and other life-threatening illnesses. Cigars and pipes pose roughly the same oral cancer risk as cigarettes, and smokeless tobacco may put you at a higher risk, as the cancer-causing chemicals sit directly on the cheeks and gums for long periods of time.

How can I prevent oral cancer?

Aside from the very obvious preventive measure of stopping the use of cigarettes, pipes, cigars, and smokeless tobacco, you should take the following measures to reduce your risk:

  • Eat a balanced diet that includes antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables.
  • Drink alcohol only in moderation, and do not engage in binge drinking.
  • Avoid prolonged sun exposure.
  • See your physician for an HPV screening, as there is a link between this virus and oral cancer.
  • Conduct a monthly self exam of your mouth, lips, and neck, checking for any unusual changes, sores, or lumps.
  • See Dr. Denes every six months, as an oral cancer screening is part of every checkup.

If you need an oral cancer screening, or if it’s just time for a checkup, call Drs. Alex Denes and Claudia Denes at (559) 297-1800 to schedule an appointment. Fresno Dental Studio happily treats patients from Fresno, Clovis, Sanger, Mendota, Orange Cove, Reedley, Selma, and the surrounding areas.

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One Comment to “Smoking and Oral Cancer”

  1. […] myth. In fact, researchers have recently suggested that smokeless tobacco has an increased risk of oral cancer over smoking cigarettes. Our Fresno dentists will explain their findings and why you should […]

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