Oral Cancer: What Are the Risk Factors?

Oral Cancer: What Are the Risk Factors?

Apr 07, 2018

When you come to Millennium Smiles for a dental exam, Dr. Korous is checking for more than just cavities. Your dental exam also includes a screening for oral cancer.

April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month. More than 51,000 new cases of oral and oropharyngeal cancers will be diagnosed in the United States this year, according to the Oral Cancer Foundation.

Dr. Korous screens for oral cancer in all her patients because she knows how important it is to catch this type of cancer early. When the cancer is found before it spreads, the 5-year survival rate is 83%, compared to 36% after it has metastasized, according to the American Dental Association.

Who is at greatest risk of oral cancer?

Men are twice as likely to be diagnosed with oral cancer than women. The American Cancer Society reports this may be linked to higher tobacco and alcohol use among men.

Oral cancer is also more common in patients who are 55 and older. These types of cancers are less common in younger people because they typically take many years to develop.

What are the other risk factors for oral cancer?

While men who are 55 and older may be at the greatest risk for oral cancer, women and younger people can be impacted by this disease. The following factors could increase your chances of developing oral cancer.

Tobacco Use

Tobacco use significantly increases your risk of developing an oral or oropharyngeal cancer. In fact, most people who develop oral cancer either smoke or chew, according to the American Cancer Society.

Alcohol Consumption

About 70 percent of oral cancer patients are heavy drinkers, according American Cancer Society statistics. The combination of drinking and tobacco use greatly increases your risk.

Human Papilloma Virus

The Centers for Disease Control estimates HPV is associated with about 9,000 cases of head and neck cancer each year in the United States. HPV-related cancers are found more often in younger patients who do not smoke.


Greater UV exposure puts people who work outside at greater risk for developing lip cancer.

Poor Diet

Eating right is good for more than just your waistline. People with diets low in fruits and vegetables are at greater risk of developing these types of cancer.

As with all cancers, the key to fighting oral cancer is early detection. If you’ve been avoiding your twice-a-year cleaning and dental exam, schedule your appointment today.