Oral Cancer or Mouth Cancer can affect any part of the mouth like lips, cheek, gums, floor of mouth or hard palette. Oral cancer is ranked second highest cancer affecting Indian population. Around 1.2 lakh new cases of oral cancer diagnosed in India each year. India has one third of all the oral cancers in the world.
Men are affected more as compared to women. In Indian men oral cancer is the most common cancer found, amongst women it ranks second behind breast cancer. Low socio-economic status population is affected more with oral cancer. It is due to more use of tobacco, poor oral hygiene and lack of awareness about the disease.
Common risk factors for Oral Cancer:
- Tobacco– Tobacco contains many carcinogens (chemicals which cause cancer). Tobaccos in any form either smoking or smokeless i.e. chewing tobacco can cause oral cancer.
- Alcohol– Use of alcohol also attributes to formation of oral cancer. If a person consumes both alcohol and tobacco it has synergistic effect and increases risk of oral cancer. Alcohol and tobacco also produces a field effect and put whole of the head and neck area, food pipe (oesophagus) at risk of cancer.
- Betel quid and Paan– Habit of chewing paan or supaari is very popular in our country. They can also cause oral cancer.
- Sharp edged teeth– Sharp edged teeth or ill fitting dentures can cause oral cancer because of chronic irritation.
- Human Papilloma virus (HPV)– High risk HPV especially HPV-16 and HPV-18 are also responsible for the development of oral cancer. These viruses are transmitted by intimate sexual contact.
- Diet– Diet poor in vitamins and minerals have been found to be associated with oral cancer.
- Weak Immune system– People with weakened immune system or immune response because of any reason like underlying immunodeficiency disease or as side effect of drugs used for some treatments are at increased risk of developing oral cancer.
- Exposure to Sun- Excessive exposure to sunlight can cause increased incidence of Lip Cancer.
- Genetic Factors– These are evidence emerging which suggests possible risk of germ line mutations in occurrence of oral cancer. These cancers are more commonly seen in younger patients.
- Precancerous Conditions– Leukoplakia, Erythroplakia, Oral Submucous Fibrosis, Oral Lichen Planus. These lesions can transform into cancer of oral cavity.
How to prevent Oral Cancer?
- Prevention of oral Cancer involves avoiding risk factors.
- Abstinence from tobacco and alcohol is of permanent importance
- If a person is using tobacco products or consumes alcohol he or she should be vigilant about any ulcer or patch developing in mouth. Any such abnormality should not be ignored and immediately reported to doctor.
- Maintenance of Oral Hygiene.
- Diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables
- Any ill fitting denture or sharp edged tooth should be corrected.
Remember Few Points:
- Prevention is better than cure.
- Do not ignore symptoms. As results of treatment are better in early stages of disease.