4 Surprising Ways to Prevent Oral Cancer
Oral cancer is more common than you might think, with approximately 50,000 Americans diagnosed every year. It mostly occurs among people ages 41-60, and men are at a greater risk of developing it than women. Oral cancer is an umbrella term for cancers that affect your tongue, cheeks, lips, sinuses, throat, teeth, gums, and roof of the mouth or below your tongue. Many of us are already aware that maintaining good oral hygiene and avoiding tobacco can lower the risk of developing oral cancer, but what else can you do? Here are some tips on how to prevent oral cancer that you may not know about:
1. Limit alcohol.
As with smoking, the longer you consume alcohol and the more you drink, the more your risk of oral cancer increases. That’s because alcohol reduces the body’s defenses against cancer. Those who drink more than 3.5 alcoholic beverages per day have a 2-3 times increased risk of oral cancers, according to the NIH. Excessive alcohol consumption combined with smoking increases the risk exponentially. Women should limit alcohol intake to no more than one drink per day, and men should limit it to no more than two per day.
2. Protect your lips from the sun.
Most of us think about protecting our skin from the sun, but we often overlook protecting our lips. If you spend a lot of time in the sun, you have a greater risk for lip cancer. Here are some simple ways you can protect your lips from harmful UV rays:
- Lip balm with an SPF of 30 and reapply often.
- Stay out of direct sunlight in the middle of the day when the sun is the strongest, as much as possible.
- Wear a hat with a wide brim that shades your whole face.
3. Lower your risk of HPV.
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a group of over 100 viruses that can cause HPV infection, the most common STI. And it can affect your mouth without you realizing it, because it is often asymptomatic. In rare cases, certain strains of this virus can lead to oral cancer. There is a vaccine for HPV, but it is most effective if you get it before becoming sexually active. You can protect yourself from contracting HPV by limiting your number of partners and practicing safe sex.
4. Make sure your dentures fit properly.
Dentures that don’t fit properly can cause irritation to your mouth tissue. Over time, this may lead to cellular changes that increase your risk for cancer. If you wear dentures, be sure to remove and clean them daily and have them regularly checked for fit by your dentist.
Oral cancer screenings as part of your routine dental appointments with us are your best defense against this disease. So while it may not seem like a big deal to miss a dental appointment every once in a while, keep in mind that your wellbeing could actually depend on it. Oral cancer prevention is just one of the many ways our holistic dentists at Prescott Dentistry help you care for your overall health.