Risk Factors for Oral Cancer

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Hospitals see over 30,000 new cases of oral cancer every year. While reports show that 95% of oral cancer occurs in people over 40 years old, cancer can develop at any time, regardless of your lifestyle.

Oral cavities can start at different parts of the mouth, including the soft sides, lips, and gums. It often starts as a mouth sore or growth that won’t go away.

While experts have been unable to pinpoint the exact causes of oral cancer, they have uncovered several risk factors. When caught in the early stages, oral cancer is treatable. Read on to discover if you have any of the following risk factors for oral cancer.


Certain activities, like drinking or smoking, can increase your risk of developing various cancers.

Smoking (or Secondhand Smoking)

Smoking can increase your risk of oral and oropharyngeal cancer. This includes pipes, cigarettes, and cigars. Smokers are six times more likely to develop mouth and throat cancers than nonsmokers.

If you are a smoker diagnosed with oral or oropharyngeal cancer, it’s crucial to quit all tobacco products. Smoking during treatment can result in more side effects and a higher risk of infection. It also increases the chances of developing a second cancer in other organs and gum disease. The same risks apply to people who chew tobacco or betel.

People exposed to secondhand smoke also have an increased risk of cancer


Drinking alcohol is a major risk factor for cancers affecting the mouth, pharynx, and larynx. The heavier the drinker, the higher the risk.

Alcohol acts as an irritant and can damage cells in the mouth and throat. These organs may attempt to repair themselves, but ultimately can cause DNA changes that lead to oral cancer.

Alcohol also inhibits the body from fighting off other toxic chemicals. That’s why people who are heavy drinkers and smokers are at higher risk for cancer.


Human papillomavirus, also known as HPV, affects the skin and cells. Experts believe that at least 80% of people will get HPV at some point in their lives. In most cases, HPV gets better on its own and doesn’t cause much harm.

However, it can also cause changes in the throat and mouth that can become cancerous. HPV is a group of over 150 types of viruses, each known by its own number. Oropharyngeal cancer is often linked to HPV 16.

Medical or Family History

People with a history of mouth or oropharyngeal cancer have a higher risk of developing head or neck cancers. However, it can also occur if you have a history of lung, cervical, or esophageal cancer. You also face a higher risk of oral cancer if a close relative also had it.

Are You at Risk?

Oral cancer can happen to even the healthiest individuals. However, these risk factors can increase your chances of developing oral cancer. Many of these risk factors can also impact your teeth and gum health.

Synergy specializes in providing the highest quality dental and oral care. Contact us today to find out what we can do for you.

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