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Oral Cancer Screening, Risk Factors & Prevention


Dear Patients,

April is National Cancer Control Month. Hence, we would like to share with you some information about oral cancer screening; the risk factors and prevention methods.

Oral Cancer Screening

Screening for oral cancer is conducted during your teeth cleaning appointment every 6 months at our office. We look at the lips, cheeks, gums, tongue, under the tongue, and the back of the mouth for any white or red changes. This routine examination is done regularly and at no charge. If something unusual is detected visually, it will prompt us to look into it further. Most changes should not be cause for alarm, as many changes are just thickening of the tissue such as you might see in a callous on the skin of your elbow. Several methods are available for further examination, such as brush biopsy or regular biopsy.

Oral Cancer Risk Factors

Four risk factors for oral cancer have been identified:

  1. Tobacco
  2. Alcohol
  3. HPV-16
  4. Sun Exposure

The most important risk factor is tobacco use of any kind, followed by alcohol use (more than four alcoholic drinks per day). The highest risk is carried by those who smoke and are heavy alcohol users. Other risk factors include HPV-16, which is a specific version of the HPV virus and exposure to the sun, which may affect mostly the lower lip.

Oral Cancer Prevention

No risk factors:  In the absence of any of the four risk factors listed above, the best prevention is a diet that includes a daily intake of fiber rich fruits and vegetables.

In the presence of a risk factor:

Tobacco:  Stop using tobacco

Alcohol:  Reduce alcohol intake

HPV-16 virus: Eliminate the use of marijuana and ensure your partner does not carry HPVn

Sun: Use lip balm with sunscreen protection when outside

If you wish to read further, you can refer to the National Cancer Institute website.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Best regards,

Ziad Jalbout, DDS

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