Oral Cancer on the Rise
While all other forms of cancer are becoming less frequent, the incidence of head and neck cancers is increasing. Some of these cancers, such as esophageal cancer, are both aggressive and usually fatal. Not only are head and neck cancers becoming more frequent, they are also affecting individuals who do not have classic risk factors for the disease (tobacco and/or alcohol consumption.) Most alarming, the group seeing the highest increase is men and women between the ages of 20-44.
Recent medical research has concluded that the rise in oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma is directly related to the spread of the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). This finding suggests that many cancers of the head and neck are “sexually acquired”.
The Human Papilloma Virus is thought to spread both orally and genitally. It is a prevalent cause for Cervical Carcinoma and cancers around the tonsils. One strain of the virus, HPV-16, is the most aggressive form and is responsible for the majority of HPV positive cancers.
The good news is that HPV-associated oral cancers respond much more favorable to radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Also, HPV vaccines are being developed which should sharply decrease the rate of Cervical and HPV-associated Oral Cancer.
Another breakthrough in early detection of Oral Cancer is the development of better diagnostic tools. Pap Smears have long been the “gold standard” for detection of Cervical Cancers, but the equivalent method for detecting Oral Cancer is both complex and expensive. Recently, a new diagnostic tool has become available which reveals 98% of all early (Stage 1) Oral Cancers. Using a special rinse and light source, the test identifies suspicious areas. These areas are then stained with a dye to reveal any change in cellular structure. Questionable areas are then biopsied.
Risk Factors for Oral Cancer
Use of tobacco products.
This includes smoking cigarettes, cigars, and pipes, plus chewing,
and dipping snuff. Consumption of alcohol products. While the
amount of use varies in each study, more than one oz each day can
lead to many problems.
High risk sexual behavior.
Multiple lifetime partners and contact with HPV positive individuals.
HPV transmission can be both genital-oral and oral-oral.
Poor diet, lack of exercise, high stress.
Low resistance factors raise your risk for all cancers.
If it’s been a while, get checked today!
Dr Sandlin | Sandlin DDS Lawrenceville, Ga