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April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month, and Maria Boutsikos, DMD wants you to understand some of the risk factors that can contribute to oral cancer. It is a serious disease, claiming the lives of more than 9,500 people every year. Knowing the risks can help you know whether you should get screened, which could potentially save your life.

Lifestyle – For years, the largest causal factor to oral cancer has been tobacco use. And while this is lessening, due to decreased use and other factors growing, it is still a major contributor. A majority of people over 50 with oral cancer use tobacco. This includes smoking, but also using smokeless products such as chewing tobacco. Drinking alcohol is also a risk factor. In fact, tobacco and alcohol together make a person 15 times more likely to develop oral cancer. For this reason, on top of many others, please consider quitting tobacco and alcohol use.

Biological – Recent years have seen a rise in HPV-caused oral cancer. It is the most common cause in patients under 40. Human papilloma virus, or HPV, is a sexually-transmitted virus infecting about 40 million Americans. Most of its roughly 200 strains are harmless, but the tiny fraction of people with poor immune response to the HPV16 strain are at risk of developing cancer.

There are other factors that contribute to a complex disease like oral cancer, such as UV radiation from sunlight. You can find all kinds of information about oral cancer at www.oralcancer.org. You can also call our Sarasota, FL, office to talk about all of your oral health needs.