According to World Health Organization, oral cancer is the 11th most common cancer seen worldwide. Any cancerous growth seen in the oral cavity is considered as the mouth or oral cancer. This includes the lips, cheeks, gums, tongue, tonsils, and the upper part of the throat. Although cancers are not preventable, their risk can be reduced by following certain measures.
Knowing your risk
Knowing your risk factors is crucial to help devise a plan to reduce it. Therefore, half the battle is won, if you know what your risk factors are. The common risk factors include smoking, drinking, unhealthy food choices, sedentary lifestyle, and a family history. Consumption of alcohol more than three drinks a day may increase the risk of oral cancer. If you have had a head or neck cancer earlier, then your chances of getting oral cancer are more. Smoking tobacco is as harmful as chewing tobacco which is a primary cause of oral cancer. About 90% of oral cancers are due to excessive tobacco and alcohol consumption. Repeated exposure of lips to the ultra-violet rays can increase the risk of oral cancer. Aging also increases the risk of cancer.
According to World Health Organization (WHO), men are at a greater risk of developing oral cancer than women.
Reducing your risk
Some risk factors are non-controllable such as age, gender, and family history, however, there are many others which can be controlled with few modifications in the lifestyle.
Maintain oral hygiene: Brush and floss your teeth regularly. Rinsing with mouthwash is also essential to maintain oral hygiene. An unhygienic mouth increases the risk of infections. Chronic oral infections are a risk factor for oral cancers.
Perform self-examination monthly: Plan to do it regularly as it only takes a few minutes and can help you in early diagnosis. Check your mouth completely along with back and sides of your tongue. If you notice any significant changes such as lumps, colored patches, then consult your dentist immediately.
Avoid excessive sun exposure: Using UV-A/B-blocking lip balms/sticks provide sun protection on your lips. Avoid going out between 10 am and 2 pm. Use a broad-brimmed hat if you have to go out in the sun.
Quit tobacco: Do not smoke or chew any type of tobacco product as it increases the risk of oral cancer. If you are a smoker, take the expert’s advice or seek help from support groups to quit smoking. Use of nicotine gums or patches can also help you to quit smoking.
Limit alcohol consumption: Drink in moderation as more than three drinks per day may greatly increase the risk of oral cancer. If you are a woman, drinking one glass per day and if you are a man, drinking two glasses per day would be recommended.
Avoid HPV infection
Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) infection can increase the risk of oral cancer. This infection is commonly seen in smokers. Activities such as kissing, sharing drinks, etc. can spread the disease. Getting vaccinated against HPV can help to prevent infection.
Maintain active lifestyle: Exercise regularly to maintain an active lifestyle as this can boost your immunity and help fight cancers.
Include cancer-fighting foods in the diet: Some health care organizations recommend eating foods such as dark green leafy vegetables, grapes, garlic, flaxseed, soy, green tea, and tomatoes for their role in cancer prevention. Avoid red meat, processed and canned foods, artificial food flavors, and deep-fried foods. A Proper way of preparing the foods is also important. This can be done by replacing frying and grilling with boiling, baking, or steaming helps to retain the nutrients. Using healthy spices like garlic, ginger and curry powder to the food can enhance the flavor along with its cancer-fighting abilities.
Have a routine dental check-up: Visit your dentist at least once in every six months and request for an oral cancer screening test.
Ill-fitting dentures, missing teeth, and broken teeth can cause mouth irritation and can increase the risk of oral cancer. So, consult your dentist to treat and manage these problems.