This year alone, more than 21,000 men and 9,000 women will be diagnosed with oral cancer. Although most people diagnosed are over 60 years old, age is not the only risk factor of mouth cancer. In fact, the main risk factors for oral cancer are things you can actually control. Mouth cancer includes cancer in any part of the oral cavity or oropharynx, including the mouth, gums and lips as well the throat at the back of your mouth.
You can take an active role in preventing mouth cancer or detecting it early:
- Brush and floss regularly By keeping your mouth healthy, you can protect your immune system and help your body fight off potential cancers.
- Avoid smoking (or chewing) tobacco – Tobacco users exponentially increase their risk for mouth cancer compared with those who do not smoke.
- Drink alcohol in moderation – Limit your alcohol to 2 or 3 drinks per day. Even binge drinking can put you at a higher risk.
- Limit your sun – Are you remembering to apply sunscreen to your lips? Always use UV-A/B-blocking sun protection on your lips when you are in the sun.
- Exercise regularly – Choosing to be active will boost your immune system, a critical cancer prevention step.
- Eat right. – A 'Mediterranean-style diet' with plenty of fresh vegetables (particularly tomatoes), citrus fruits, olive oil and fish can help fight cancer. Researchers are discovering more and more benefits to the role that healthy eating plays in cancer prevention.
- See your dentist every six months– Last but certainly not least, ask for an oral cancer screening at your regularly scheduled dental appointment. It is a quick and totally painless screening that your dentist can perform while you are sitting in the dental chair.
Because the statistics for conquering mouth cancer are profoundly better for those that detect it early, it is critical that you not only see your dentist for your annual oral cancer screening but that you also are able to personally detect the warning signs yourself. See your doctor right away if you have one or more mouth ulcers that do not heal. Also be aware of red, or red and white, patches on the lining of your mouth or tongue, or a swelling in your mouth that lasts for more than three weeks. Gilreath Family Dentistry believes in the power of early detection. They provide thorough oral cancer screenings at your routine appointments for your convenience and peace of mind.
Posted on behalf of Dr. Paul Gilreath IV,