Posted .

While you may know that your dentist examines your teeth and gums closely for cavities, decay, and gum disease during every dental check-up, you may not realize that they also examine your mouth closely for signs of oral cancer. Oral cancer can be deadly, and early detection is the key to winning the battle against it.

Among those diagnosed with oral cancer in recent years, only 64.5 percent of them have survived for a full five years after diagnosis. However, the five-year survival rate soars to 83 percent when the cancer is caught in its earliest stages.

While your dentist does their part every six months to determine if you are displaying any signs of oral cancer, you can help keep it from forming in the first place by knowing the oral cancer risk factors and eliminating any bad habits in your life that may be raising your risk.

While genetics does play a part in your family’s predisposition to oral cancer development, read on to learn about the six other main risk factors, most of which are avoidable.

Tobacco Use

While you may know that using chewing tobacco greatly increases a person’s chance of developing oral cancer in their lifetime, you may not realize that tobacco use of any type also raises their risk. If anyone in your family smokes cigarettes, cigars, or a pipe, then urge them to quit.

Not only does smoking increase their chances of developing oral cancer, but it can also impact the health of those around when they smoke — anyone exposed to second-hand smoke is also at greater risk of oral cancer development than someone not exposed to it.

Alcohol Consumption

Medical professionals advise all women of legal drinking age to limit their alcohol consumption to one drink per day and for men of legal age to limit their intake of alcoholic beverages to two drinks per day. The consumption of alcohol raises a person’s chance of the development of many types of cancers, including oral cancer.

While the reason drinking alcohol can cause cancer is still unclear to researchers, they do know that about 70 percent of all people diagnosed with oral cancer drink heavily.

When a person both drinks alcohol and smokes cigarettes, it doubles the likelihood that they will develop oral cancer in their lifetime compared to a person who does not smoke or drink heavily.

Sun Exposure

Cancer of the lip is more common in people who work outdoors or perform other tasks outdoors for long periods of time than those who send much of their time indoors. This makes it important to encourage every member of your family to wear a lip balm that contains an SPF of at least 30 any time they are outdoors, especially for long periods of time. Like sunscreen applied to skin, it is also important to reapply SPF lip balm at least every two hours when outdoors.

Immunosuppressant Medications

If you or anyone in your family takes a medication that suppresses their immune system, such as those used to help control autoimmune conditions, then realize that it raises their risk of oral cancer development.

Human Papillomavirus or HPV

If you or your partner have been diagnosed with Human Pappillomavirus, then it is important to know that this can increase your chances of the development of cancer in the tissues in the middle of your throat called your oropharynx.

To help your children avoid catching HPV in the future, which can increase their chances of developing several types of cancer, get them vaccinated against the virus when they are preteens.

An Unhealthy Diet

A diet filled with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants can help ward off oral cancer development. Make sure everyone in your family eats plenty of fruits and vegetables that contain antioxidants that help fight the free-radicals that cause cancer.

Remember that dentists like Kenneth Schweizer DDS PA examine your mouth for signs of oral cancer every time you visit them for a check-up, so make sure you visit them every six months. However, the first step to preventing oral cancer is living a healthy lifestyle and eliminating any oral cancer risk factors that you can.