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April Is Oral Cancer Awareness Month

Oral cancer is now the eighth most common cancer among men and the 14th most common among women around the world. In countries like India, where there is widespread poverty and limited access to doctors, that number is significantly higher. In fact, it is estimated that a full 30 percent of all cancers in India will be oral cancers by 2020, making it the third most common cancer in the country of over 1.3 billion people.

So, what is causing this increase in oral cancer rates around the globe, and what can you do to protect yourself from this very preventable - but often silent - killer?


Limit Your Alcohol Consumption

Alcohol consumption is one of the leading causes of oral cancer. This is because the alcohol itself irritates the cells of your mouth and throat, making it harder for your mouth and throat to fight off the cancer cells that attack it. While an occasional drink is fine, the Mayo Clinic recommends limiting yourself to one drink a night.

Quit Smoking

Smoking or using tobacco of any kind increases your risk of oral cancer. This includes cigarettes and chewing tobacco. But don’t think you’re safe if you use e-cigarettes or "vape" either. Studies have shown the chemicals in vaping fluid could damage the DNA of the heart, bladder and lungs, and increase the risk of developing cancer in other areas of the body. Currently there is very little known about the risks of long-term vaping, but it's still better than traditional tobacco cigarettes. It’s a step in the right direction, toward quitting.

Wear an SPF

Yes, you read that right. Protecting yourself from the sun’s harmful UVA and UVB rays can help prevent oral cancer. That’s because oral cancer can develop outside of your mouth - on your lips - and spread into your mouth tissue. If you are going outside, wear a minimum of SPF 15, and reapply often. If you will be outside for an extended time period, the Mayo Clinic recommends wearing a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses, too. And don’t just think because it’s winter, cold out, or overcast that you aren’t getting sun exposure. If it’s not nighttime, you need sun protection.

Get the HPV Vaccine and Practice Safe Sex

The HPV vaccine was designed to protect people between the ages of 11 and 26 from contracting the human papillomavirus, or HPV. In 2018, HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection, with approximately 79 million Americans currently infected with the illness. Even more alarming? Most of those infected with HPV are in their late teens to early 20s, but the fastest-growing group of patients with the illness is persons aged 25 to 60. Unfortunately, people in this age group are not able to get the HPV vaccine, because it has been proven ineffective for that age group.

While there is currently no cure for HPV, the vaccine can help people between ages 11 and 26 prevent the illness, which can cause everything from warts to oral or cervical cancers. Because many people can carry the illness and never show symptoms, we recommend you get tested for HPV regularly, especially if you have had unprotected sexual contact with a new partner.

Get Screened at Your Dentist’s Office

Many dentists are conducting oral cancer screenings in the office as part of your regular dental exam. This quick screening can be done right from your dental chair and can act as a first defense against the illness. That's all the more reason to keep your regular dentist appointments! To schedule your appointment, call Dr. Simpson's office at (910) 550-3959.

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