What Is Oral Cancer & How Can You Prevent It?
Oral cancer is a serious medical condition that can affect people of all ages. It is also one of the most preventable forms of cancer and can often be treated successfully if caught early. Symptoms of oral cancer include mouth sores that don’t heal, persistent oral bleeding and trouble swallowing. Here are a few steps that you can take to lessen your chances of getting oral cancer.
Don’t Use Tobacco Products
Both smoking and chewing tobacco can cause oral cancer. Tobacco products are known to contain carcinogens that can cause cancer to form on the tongue, gums and other areas of the mouth. These carcinogens may weaken the immune system, which causes more difficulty in fighting off cancer cells. The DNA in your normal cells can also become damaged from tobacco products and cause uncontrollable cell growth. Smoking cigarettes and cigars as well as using cannabis may increase your risk. If you use tobacco products, try to quit immediately or find ways to reduce your cravings and gradually give up the habit. Tell a dentist in Hampton, NH or wherever is more local to you if you’re a tobacco user so that he or she can look extra closely for symptoms inside your mouth that might indicate the presence of oral cancer.
Drink Less Alcohol
Being a heavy drinker also puts you more at risk for developing oral cancer. The risk increases even more if you combine heavy drinking with smoking. Alcohol is known to dry out the tissues inside the mouth, which might make it easier for carcinogens from tobacco to linger in these vulnerable tissues. Acetaldehyde, which remains in the body after the ethanol that’s in alcohol has been metabolized, is in itself a known carcinogen. Your immune system’s ability to fight off cancer cells can also be inhibited by drinking too much. The body can’t absorb essential vitamins and nutrients that are known to protect against cancer as effectively if high levels of alcohol are present.
Be Mindful of Sexual Activity
Even certain sexual activities can lead to oral cancer. According to Verywell, the human papillomavirus (HPV) can make cancerous warts grow inside the mouth. HPV is often spread through oral sex and deep (French) kissing. Most forms of the virus are relatively harmless, but strains 16 and 18 are known to cause oral cancer as well as cancer of the cervix, penis and anus. Oral cancer that is caused by HPV usually develops on the tonsils, on the base of the tongue and in other areas of the throat. You can lower your chances of getting HPV by using condoms and dental dams and limit the amount of deep kissing you do. Remaining celibate is the only guaranteed way to not contract HPV.
Take Precautions in the Sun
You may be surprised to learn that sun exposure can make you vulnerable to oral cancer. The sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays wreak havoc on the lips. Like with skin cancer, the sun can cause cancerous lesions to form on parts of the lips. If these lesions are left untreated, they can spread to areas inside the oral cavity. The skin on the lips is especially vulnerable because it’s thinner and lacks melanin. There are certain brands of lip balm that contain sunscreen that’s able to protect the lips. Some hats are also made to provide shade for the face and can shield your lips from sun exposure.
Keeping yourself safe from oral cancer is possible if you make the necessary changes in your life and avoid certain activities. Preventing oral cancer starts with you, and you can keep yourself healthy by making smart choices.