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Oral Cancer: Know Causes, Risk Factors And Preventive Measures

Oral cancer: There are various factors that can put you at a higher risk of oral cancer. Read here as expert explains some of these.

Oral Cancer: Know Causes, Risk Factors And Preventive Measures

Poor oral health can lead to multiple health issues


  1. Several factors puts you at a higher risk of oral cancer
  2. As per WHO, oral diseases affect nearly 3.5 billion people worldwide
  3. Oral cancer can affect different parts of the mouth

Did your parents force you to brush and floss twice a day? Rinse the mouth properly after meals? Or limited your access to chocolates and cold-drinks? Well these stern acts were the first steps towards healthy oral hygiene and subsequently healthy lifestyle. Oral health awareness is essential to prevent a majority of oral and dental conditions and even cancer. As per World Health Organisation (WHO), oral diseases affect nearly 3.5 billion people in the world. Gap in a healthy routine such as poor brushing, binge eating of sweets or junk-food, excess coffee or tea intake and unhealthy lifestyle choices of consuming smoking or smokeless tobacco, alcohol are known causes of oral health decay. Prevalence of dental diseases like cavities, gingivitis and periodontitis is common; however, perpetual laxity in proper care of oral health can also lead to oral cancers.

What puts you at a risk of oral cancer?

Oral cancers include cancers of the cheeks, lips, mouth, gums, tongue, tonsils and back of the throat. It's one of the three most common types of cancers in India. Causes of oral cancer comprise use of carcinogens such as tobacco or alcohol, consistently unaddressed dental problems, weakened immune system and sexually transmitted viruses.

Also read: Dental Caries: Signs And Symptoms Of Tooth Decay You Must Watch Out For

Oropharyngeal cancer is more common in developing than developed countries. This is because the risk of oral and oropharyngeal cancer is increased by the use of tobacco (through smoking and chewing) and alcohol, the consumption of which is prominently heavier in developing countries, especially India. While tobacco heavily increases the risk of cancer in the cheeks and gums, heavy consumption of alcohol increases the risk of head and neck cancer. The use of areca nut or betel nut also contributes to potentially developing an oral cancer. Moreover, what is a dental disease now can snowball into an oral cancer later, if treated with neglect.

Also read: Factors That Can Affect Your Gut Health: Diet, Stress, Dental Health And More


Tobacco use increases the risk of oral and oropharyngeal cancer
Photo Credit: iStock

Oral cancers sometimes also stem from human papillomavirus (HPV), a viral infection transmitted through unprotected intercourse. Using tobacco products after having contracted HPV increases the chances of it developing into a cancer manifold. Traces of HPV can lead to throat cancer, especially with a weak immune system. Management of oral cancer involves routine checkups that can lead to an early diagnosis and subsequently appropriate line of treatment involving chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery.

Also read: Dental Hygiene: Imperative To Ensure Overall Health, Expert Explains How

Taking care of your oral health can play a vital role in avoiding oral cancer. Very much like other areas of your body, your mouth gets in frequent contact with bacteria. However, since the mouth is the entry points to your digestive and respiratory tracts, practising good oral hygiene daily stands paramount in protecting your oral health. Additionally, scheduling periodic dental checkups are an investment in your oral health, and consequently, your overall health!

(Dr. Sudeep Sarkar, Senior Consultant - Oncosurgery, Nanavati Super Speciality Hospital)

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