Do You Know the Facts About Your Risk of Oral Cancer?

You may be more at risk for oral cancer, depending on a variety of factors. Although oral cancer can affect anyone at any age, there are certain risk factors that can increase the chances of developing oral cancer. Knowing your personal risk factors can help you make more informed lifestyle choices, and possibly keep you from a diagnosis.

Oral cancer (a type of head and neck cancer) includes cancers of the lips, tongue, floor of the mouth, palate, sinuses, cheeks and throat. This destructive disease is treatable if detected early. Education about risk factors for oral cancer help increase early detection, which can save lives.

Risk factors for oral cancer

The risk for oral cancer varies depending on many different factors. Although some who have a heightened risk for oral cancer may never get it, it is still important to know whether a patient should be cautious of certain choices. Some risk factors that increase the risk for oral cancer include tobacco use, sun exposure, excessive alcohol intake, gender, skin color, age, and poor oral hygiene, among others.

Tobacco use

Anyone who uses tobacco products, such as cigarettes or chew are twice as likely to get oral cancer. Tobacco includes anything from cigars and pipes to snuff. Most cases of oral cancer are due to tobacco use. Cancer related to tobacco use usually occurs on the lips, gums, cheeks and inner surface of the lips.

Sun exposure

Whether a patient has a job that requires a lot of outdoor time or a habit of tanning, any prolonged sun exposure can increase the risk of getting oral cancer. Excessive periods of sun exposure uninhibited by sunscreen are linked to lip cancers. Try to limit UV radiation exposure by protecting skin from the sun, either with sunblock or protective clothing.

Excessive alcohol intake

Alcohol does not just affect the liver. Heavy drinkers are almost twice as likely to get oral cancer. Additionally, many who partake in alcohol use can sometimes do that in combination with tobacco, which increases the risk even more.


Men are twice as likely to develop oral cancer than women.

Skin color

Those with fair skin have a higher chance of getting lip cancer. Sunburns are one of the main reasons for cancers of the lips in people with lighter skin tones. Always protect skin from sun exposure when going outside.


Most oral cancer cases are diagnosed over the age of 45. Oral cancer can develop in a person of any age or walk of life, but statistically speaking, those over 45 may be at a higher risk.

Poor oral hygiene

Cancer of the mouth (also known as the oral cavity) is heavily linked to a history of poor oral hygiene. Persistent gum disease and tooth decay can change the state of the mouth. Teeth and gum problems are connected to problems in the rest of the body as well, including the heart. Tobacco and alcohol use wreaks havoc on the mouth, causing staining and changing the composition of the tissue.

Get checked for oral cancer

Oral cancer screenings can be done in just a few minutes during your bi-annual dental cleaning and checkup. Although your dentist is already trained to be looking out for signs of oral cancer, be sure to bring up any concerns you may have regarding your oral health.

Request an appointment here: or call Family Choice Dental at (505) 634-5657 for an appointment in our Albuquerque office.

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