Alcohol and CigarettesOral cancer is the sixth most common cancer in the world, and strikes over 43,000 people each year in America. Over the past 30 years, survival rates have only increased from 45 percent to 54 percent, with survival rates lower among African Americans and people under 40.

In a recent poll, the National Institute of Dental Research found that a sizable population understood the causes and early signs of oral cancer. Along with genetic disposition, risk factors include: smoking or chewing tobacco, regular alcohol consumption and excessive exposure to sun.

Because early detection is essential to improving survival rates, any of the following warning signals should prompt an immediate oral examination:

  • viral or fungal infection
  • sores that don’t seem to heal
  • white or red patches in the mouth
  • chewing or swallowing problems
  • numbness
  • swelling or outright lumps
  • thickness in the throat
  • excessive sun exposure

The best defense against oral cancer is a good offense. Regular visits to the dentist are strongly recommended. New biopsy techniques offer more timely detection—and a better chance for a healthy outcome.