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The Importance of Oral Cancer Screenings

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Cancer-Free Mouth

Cancer-Free Mouth

Oral Cancer Statistics

What do you know about oral cancer?  According to the CDC and Oral Cancer Foundation, the following are some prominent statistics about oral cancer.

  • 41,000 people are diagnosed yearly in the United States
  • Oral cancer is responsible for approximately 12,000 deaths per year
  • 66% of people will be diagnosed with oral cancer at a late stage of the disease—at stages three and four
  • Past risks of oral cancer include tobacco and alcohol use, and being over 40 years of age
  • Today, the face of oral cancer is changing with the fastest growing population in younger ages, ranging from 18 to 40 years of age
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a known risk factor and independent causative factor for oral cancer

How Can HPV Affect My Mouth?

Human papillomavirus (HPV) includes 130 unique types of double-stranded circular DNA viruses capable of producing epithelial tumors of the skin and mucous membrane.  HPV-16 and HPV-18 are high risk strains which are responsible for 70% of cervical carcinomas.  The molecular evidence for HPV-16 in Oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma (OPSCC), or oral cancer, is as strong as it is for cervical cancer. HPV -16 and 18 account for 92% of HPV positive OPSCC.  In the U.S., OPSCC due to HPV has climbed to 50%.  That’s a strong direct correlation between HPV and oral cancer!

Clinical studies show that HPV-positive head and neck squamous cell carcinoma are seen more likely in a higher socio-economic environment, and is most prevalent in the range of 40 to 59 years of age.  The ratio of males versus females affected is 3 to 1.  And sexual behavior is a high risk factor!  HPV-positive head and neck squamous cell carcinoma are seen mostly on the palatine tonsils and the base of the tongue, though early signs are not clinically evident.

Everyone Needs an Oral Cancer Screening

At Atlanta Smiles and Wellness, we perform an Oral Cancer Screening at every one of your cleaning appointments.  If we see anything that is not within normal limits, we will either decide to biopsy the area or will document it with digital radiographs and photographs in order to observe the area until it has cleared or been removed.  Oral cancer is commonly seen on the lateral posterior borders and the dorsal side of the tongue.  Both areas are very difficult for you to check on your own and are not areas that are seen when just looking into your mouth.  If you have any questions about oral cancer or any concerns about a particular spot or area in your mouth, be sure to schedule an appointment.  The best way to optimum health is to see trained professionals regularly, and when it comes to oral cancer, early detection is key!