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Understanding the Risk Factors of Oral Cancer

Like any type of cancer, oral cancer begins with a change in a healthy cell that causes it to grow out of control. Unlike healthy cells, these cancerous cells have the ability to infect other healthy tissue in the body through a process called metastasis. Oral cancer occurs when this cancerous growth begins in the mouth, specifically in the lips, tongue, cheeks, floor of the mouth, hard and soft palates, throat, or sinuses. If not detected through a dental screening, this disease can lead to severe tissue damage and possibly even death.

Are you at risk for oral cancer? According to the American Cancer Society, men over the age of 50 years old appear to be at the highest risk for developing this type of cancer. There are, however, many other factors that can increase your risk, including:

Smoking: The rate of oral cancer among cigarette smokers is substantially higher than in those who have never smoked. In fact, it is estimated that smokers are at least six times more likely to develop the disease. If you smoke you should try quitting as soon as possible. Studies have shown those who do can decrease their risk significantly after only a few years of abstinence from tobacco use.

Smokeless tobacco use: Those who use snuff or chewing tobacco products appear to be up to 50 times more likely to develop oral cancer than those who do not.

Exposure to UV Rays: Excessive exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays, especially at a very young age, may increase your risk of suffering from oral cancers.

Family History: If a close relative such as a parent or sibling has been diagnosed with oral cancer, you may be at a higher risk for the disease.

The early detection of oral cancer is one of the many reasons to visit your dentist regularly. If you are in need of a compassionate and experienced dentist or orthodontist, contact the Southfield Family Dental Center at (248) 327-0313 to set an appointment with Dr. Levi or Dr. Oleg today.

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