mouth cancer

After-effects of oral cancer surgery forces patients into unemployment and depression

Author: Economic Voice Staff

Cancer Patients are being forced into unemployment due to the after-effects of surgery and higher levels of depression.

Research into head and neck cancer patients discovered the rate of those employed fell by more than 40 per cent five years after diagnosis, where only one in three managed to secure work. They also reported unemployed cancer survivors had lower social well-being and higher depression scores

For those cancer sufferers out of work prior to diagnosis, their reasons for not returning to work also included the knock-on effect of surgery as well as dangerous levels of alcohol consumption.

Figures from Cancer Research UK reveal more than 331,000 people were diagnosed with cancer in 2011 – around 910 every day. According to mouth cancer campaigners, the problems are exacerbated for mouth cancer patients.

Previous research identified mouth cancer survivors face a diminished quality of life. Survivors reported poor oral function, resulting in persistent eating problems and long term depression. More than half of respondents (51.6 per cent) reported problems with eating, while on average one in four survivors who lived for five or more years still experienced speech problems.

It was a similar story when it came to a patient’s physical and mental health, with more than a third (36.7 per cent and 39.3 per cent respectively) recording low functionality after the five year analysis.

According to Chief Executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter OBE, the study highlights the problems mouth cancer sufferers face on a daily basis.

Dr Carter said: “The results of the study show the scale of the problems cancer patients have to live with. For mouth cancer patients, the corrective surgery required to remove cancerous cells often leaves physical and emotional scars that can take years to heal.

While all cancer patients require a great deal of care, those recovering from mouth cancer clearly suffer from the after-effects of surgery, both physically and mentally. It can take a prolonged period of time to eat solid foods, learn to speak again, swallow without feeling discomfort and even breathe properly. In some cases, mouth cancer patients will experience these for the rest of their lives.

That is why early detection of this disease is so important. Most people with mouth cancer present late as stage 4 – the most advanced stage where time is of the essence in potentially saving a life and reducing the need for invasive surgery.

Warning signs for the disease include ulcers that do not heal within three weeks, red and white patches in the mouth and unusual lumps or swellings. If you spot any of these, or are unsure if it’s something normal or otherwise, our advice is crystal clear – if in doubt, get checked out.”

The research identified 55 head and neck cancer patients under the age of 60 who had survived more than two years. Each patient completed a survey including subscales from the Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy (FACT) instrument, the Miller Behavioural Style Scale, the General Perceived Self-Efficacy Scale, the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9) and the Hornheider Fragebogen-short version measuring need for psychological interventions.


*This news story was resourced by the Oral Cancer Foundation, and vetted for appropriateness and accuracy.

March, 2014|Oral Cancer News|

No increased risk of infection for long-term sex partners of people with HPV-related oral cancers

June 1, 2013 in Cancer 
Source: Medical Express


Spouses and long-term partners of patients with mouth and throat cancers related to infection with the human papilloma virus (HPV) appear to have no increased prevalence of oral HPV infections, according to results of a multicenter, pilot study led by Johns Hopkins investigators. The study’s results suggest that long-term couples need not change their sexual practices, say the scientists.

“While we can’t guarantee that the partners of patients will not develop oral HPV infections or cancers, we can reassure them that our study found they had no increased prevalence of oral infections, which suggests their risk of HPV-related oral cancer remains low,” says Gypsyamber D’Souza, Ph.D., M.P.H., associate professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health. She is expected to present the results of her study June 1 at the 2013 American Society of Clinical Oncology Annual Meeting.

HPV-related oral cancers are rising in prevalence among white men in the United States, and fear of transmitting the virus can lead to anxiety, divorce, and curtailing of sex and intimacy among couples, says D’Souza. Persistent oral HPV infections are a risk for developing oropharyngeal cancers, located at the base of the tongue, tonsils, pharynx and soft palate.

At the Johns Hopkins Hospital and three other hospitals, researchers conducted surveys and took oral rinse samples from 166 male and female patients with HPV-related oropharyngeal cancers and 94 spouses and partners. The scientists also studied patients’ tumor samples and performed visual oral examinations of spouses/partners. Of the 94 spouses/partners, six were male.

More than half of patients had at least one type of HPV DNA detectable in their oral rinses, including HPV16, the viral type most commonly associated with oral and other cancers. After a year, only seven patients (six percent) still had oral HPV16 DNA detectable.

Of the 94 spouses/partners, six had oral HPV infections (6.5 percent). Among the six, none of the men and two of four females (2.3 percent) had HPV16 infections at very low levels. These infections were not detectable one year later. No oral cancers were detected among 60 spouses/partners who underwent a visual oral exam.

One spouse and one patient reported a history of cervical cancer. Two spouses reported a history of cervical pre-cancer, and three patients said they had previous spouses with cervical cancers, but these were self-reported, unconfirmed cases.

“The oral HPV prevalence among partners who participated in this study are comparable to rates observed among the general population,” says D’Souza. “We suspect that long-term spouses and partners have been exposed to HPV, like most of us, and appear to have cleared the virus.”

D’Souza and her colleagues recommend that long-term couples need not change their sexual practices. “Certainly, with new sexual partners, caution is always advised.”

More research is needed to determine the timeline of progression for HPV-related oral cancers and how HPV is transmitted and suppressed by the immune system, adds D’Souza.

Provided by Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine search and more info website


* This news story was resourced by the Oral Cancer Foundation, and vetted for appropriateness and accuracy.


June, 2013|Oral Cancer News|

Professor of dentistry told woman suffering from tumour in her jaw to chew sugar-free gum and misdiagnosed 32 others, tribunal hears

Author: Steve Robson
Date: February 19, 2013
Blunders: Professor Philip Lamey is accused of misdiagnosing 33 patients at Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast

A professor of dentistry misdiagnosed patients who had cancer – prescribing one with sugar-free chewing gum when she had a tumour in her jaw and another with iron supplements for skin cancer – a tribunal has heard.

Philip Lamey allegedly misdiagnosed seven people with mouth cancer – four of whom later died – at the School of Dentistry in Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast.

In total 135 patients were recalled after doubts were raised about their biopsy results, a hearing of the General Dental Council (GDC) in London was told today.

Professor Lamey, who is being represented by lawyers at the hearing, faces 46 charges after concerns were raised about his diagnosis of 33 patients.

David Bradly, counsel for the GDC, said on one occasion the dentist’s blunders caused a patient to be rushed to hospital after a wrong diagnosis.

The patient was told she had temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMD) – chronic jaw pain – when she in fact had a tumour in her jawbone.

Mr Bradly said: ‘Professor Lamey gave a diagnosis of TMD and prescribed sugar-free chewing gum for treatment and said he would see her in three months.

‘She actually had a tumour in the mandible and was admitted to hospital. She had a squamous cell carcinoma – a type of skin cancer – and had radiotherapy following an operation.’

On another occasion he diagnosed an elderly patient as having a traumatic ulceration of the tongue.

He repeatedly prescribed iron supplements to the 78-year-old, but eventually again made a late diagnosis of squamous cell carcinoma.

Mr Brady added: ‘Professor Lamey failed to review the diagnosis of trauma.’

He also wrote in his notes that the patient declined a biopsy, when no biopsy was even offered to the pensioner.

In total 135 patients at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast had to be recalled after doubts were raised about their diagnosis by Professor Philip Lamey

While treating another patient, Professor Lamey diagnosed a traumatic mucocele in the upper lip, which can be a sign of a tumour on the salivary gland, but got a dental trainee to carry out the biopsy.

And the professor caused ‘unnecessary delay’ removing a patient’s mercury fillings and prescribing antibiotics when a patient actually had lesions spreading through her mouth.

Mr Bradly said: ‘Medications were not going to work because this lesion was a tumour.

‘This patient should have been referred for a biopsy. It was all an unnecessary delay.’

The hearing, expected to take 19 days, will focus on seven mouth cancer patients who were wrongly treated by Professor Lamey, among others.

The hearing in central London continues.

* This news story was resourced by the Oral Cancer Foundation, and vetted for appropriateness and accuracy.
February, 2013|Oral Cancer News|

Part of jaw removed after mix-up



A lab mix-up is being blamed for an operation on the wrong patient at an Otago dental hospital

A lab mix-up is being blamed for an operation on the wrong patient at an Otago dental hospital

An Otago dental hospital has apologized to a woman who had part of her jaw removed after being wrongly diagnosed with mouth cancer.

The misdiagnosis happened after a laboratory worker at Medlab Dental, part of the University of Otago Dental Hospital, dropped two samples on the floor and mixed them up, the Otago Daily Times reports.

As a result the 63-year-old patient was wrongly diagnosed with cancer and had the right side of her upper jaw removed.

An area on the woman’s lower leg where bone and blood vessels were taken to reconstruct her jaw later became infected and she had trouble walking.

“I can’t for the life of me understand how you can get tissue samples mixed up,” Nelson oral surgeon Iain Wilson, the woman’s dentist, told the newspaper.

“I am astonished and horrified by these lab mix-ups.”

University faculty of medicine dean, Professor Peter Crawford, says the university has apologized to the patient.

“We have taken this incident very seriously, and have already taken all appropriate measures to minimise the likelihood of any such incidents occurring again,” he said.

“The patient was contacted very soon after the incident was discovered, and we offered a full apology at that time.”

The case is being investigated by the Health and Disability Commissioner and the patient has consulted a lawyer about compensation.

The patient was one of six who had been affected by errors made in pathology laboratories, the Herald on Sunday reported.

In May it was reported that a woman had a breast removed after being wrongly diagnosed with cancer by Southern Community Laboratories.

The woman’s results were switched with those of another woman, who was later told she had cancer when the botch-up was identified.

This news story was resourced by the Oral Cancer Foundation, and vetted for appropriateness and accuracy.
June, 2012|Oral Cancer News|

Tobacco use and baseball


Like cigarettes, smokeless tobacco (snuff and chewing tobacco), cause mouth cancer, gum disease, and heart disease. Yet many think that chewing tobacco is safe or less so than smoking. This is not true!

In 1986, the Surgeon normal closed that the use of smokeless tobacco “is not a safe substitute for smoking cigarettes. It can cause cancer and a whole of noncancerous conditions and can lead to nicotine addiction and dependence.” Since 1991, the National Cancer institute (Nci) has officially recommended that the group avoid and desist the use of all tobacco products, including smokeless tobacco. Nci also recognizes that nitrosamines, found in tobacco products, are not safe at any level.
Chewing tobacco and baseball have a long tight affiliation, rooted in the cultural confidence among players and fans that baseball players chew tobacco and it is just part of the grand old game. This mystique is slowing changing with campaigns by ballplayers who have had or have seen friends with mouth cancer caused by chewing tobacco use.

Jeff Bagwell
Jeff Bagwell, retired first baseman with the Houston Astros and Joe Garagiola, a previous baseball player and commentator, campaign against tobacco use among children and addicted adults. In 1993, when Bagwell was 25-years-old, his dentist discovered leukoplakia, a whitish pre-cancerous sore in his mouth where he continually located chewing tobacco. About 5% of leukoplakias institute into cancer. Fortunately this did not happen to Jeff Bagwell due to the early detection by his dentist.

Rick Bender, The Man Without a Face
In 1988 Rick Bender, a 25 year old minor league baseball player advanced a large sore on the side of his tongue that would not go away for months. He began using ‘spitting tobacco’ when he was 12. After finding his dentist and then a biopsy by a specialist, he was diagnosed with mouth cancer.

Surgeons successfully removed the cancerous cells from Bender’s mouth and throat, taking a chunk of his tongue and the lymph nodes on the right side of his neck in the process. But removing the cancer also caused nerve damage that puny the use of his right arm, his throwing arm, which ended his baseball career. Later an infection occurred to the right side of Bender’s jaw after radiation therapy. As a result, it deteriorated and doctors had to remove his right jaw.

As a follow Rick Bender calls himself “the man without a face” and lectures on the dangers of ‘spitting tobacco’ throughout the nation. Bender visits schools and colleges over the country to dispel what he sees as the myths about chewing tobacco. He also addresses major and minor league baseball players each year at spring training.

Robert Leslie
Sonoma County has it own tragic baseball related, smokeless tobacco, and mouth cancer story. In June of 1998, Robert Leslie died at the young age of 31 from mouth cancer after years of chewing smokeless tobacco. He had been diagnosed four years prior and had bravely counseled youths against the use of smokeless tobacco after that point. Leslie, who was a star pitcher at Rancho Cotate High School, turned to coaching after a brief attempt at playing expert baseball. He was a popular coach at Casa Grande High School. He believed, rightly so, that the cancer had resulted from years of stuffing wads of smokeless tobacco between his gums and lower lip. He advocated against the use of chewing tobacco prior to his death. He is missed.

History Of Tobacco Use and Baseball
Tobacco has a long association with baseball. From the earlier beginnings of baseball in the late 1800′s, baseball players chewed tobacco to keep their mouths moist in dusty dirt parks of that era. Drinking water was thought to make one feel too heavy. Players also used tobacco spit to soften leather gloves and to give the spitball its wild gyrations canada viagra.

Chewing tobacco’s popularity among baseball players rose and fell with the times, most often trading places with cigarettes and cigars. The wrongful confidence that chewing tobacco caused the spread of tuberculosis lead to its reduction in use during the end of the nineteenth century. during the beginning of the twentieth century, it again rose to major use until after Wwii when cigarettes became more popular in the U.S.

During the 1950s, cigarettes reached their most prominence when teams legitimately had sponsored brands. For example, Giant’s fans (New York Giants that is) smoked only Chesterfield Cigarettes to show their team loyalty. during this era, baseball cards were often packaged with cigarettes. As a kid, I remember having my Dad buy Lucky Strikes so I could get the baseball cards.

In 1962, the Surgeon General’s record highlighted the cause and follow between smoking and heart disease and smoking and cancer. Believing that chewing tobacco was a safer product, baseball players took up smokeless tobacco again. Since then, smokeless tobacco has dominated the sport of baseball, from the major leagues down to the high school level. And similar to the targeted cigarette marketing of the 1950s, smokeless tobacco producers have promoted tobacco chewing straight through baseball players, even providing free samples in major and minor league clubhouses.

All tobacco, including smokeless tobacco, contains nicotine, which is addictive. The whole of nicotine absorbed from smokeless tobacco is 3 to 4 times the whole delivered by a cigarette. Nicotine is absorbed more slowly from smokeless tobacco than from cigarettes, but more nicotine per dose is absorbed from smokeless tobacco than from cigarettes. Also, the nicotine stays in the bloodstream for a longer time.

By giving players free samples of chew tobacco, the smokeless tobacco manufacturers were getting players hooked to the addictive drug nicotine in a tobacco goods that contains 28 cancer-causing substances. Even today, I saw a full-page magazine ad from R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. With a free coupon for Camel Snus. It was advertised as “Spitfree” and “Sold Cold” in large bold print, while in small print a warning stated, “this goods may cause gum disease and tooth loss.”

Big League Chew, a chewing gum aimed at children, is a goods that uses the deep association between baseball and chewing tobacco. Introduced in 1980, Big League Chew consists of shredded bubble gum, which resembles loose chewing tobacco. It is packaged in an aluminum foil pouch, similar to the containers of chewing tobacco, with the cartoon image of a baseball player on the outside. While candy cigarettes, other symbolic tobacco goods aimed at children, fell out of favor years ago, Big League Chew continues to be popular with kids.

Luckily, the love affair between baseball and smokeless tobacco seems to be subsiding. In 1993, minor league baseball banned all use of tobacco products among its teams. As follow fewer major leaguers are now coming up from those ranks using tobacco products. Campaigns are manufacture headway discouraging tobacco use and encouraging substitute habits like chewing gum or munching on sunflower seeds. Remember previous Giants employer Dusty Baker, setting an example for young players by stopping tobacco use and chewing sunflower seeds in the dugout?

Still an estimated 7.6 million Americans age 12 and older (3.4 percent) have used smokeless tobacco in the past month, and smokeless tobacco use is most common among young adults ages 18 to 25.

So if you use tobacco, please stop. It is the best thing you can do for your health. There are many tobacco cessation programs and nicotine change treatments. And make sure to have regular cancer screening examinations with your dentist. Early detection is indispensable for preventing mouth cancer.

Study Finds- Fewer Dying from Throat & Mouth Cancer in the U.S.

Source: HealthDay News, US News and World Report
Author: Staff

Death rates improved most for patients with more than 12 years’ education

Death rates for U.S. patients with throat and mouth cancers decreased between 1993 and 2007, a new study shows.

The finding comes from an analysis of National Center for Health Statistics data on white and black men and women, aged 25 to 64, in 26 states. The researchers also found that the largest decreases in death rates for mouth and throat (pharynx) cancers were among black patients with at least 12 years of education.

The study appears in the November issue of the Archives of Otolaryngology — Head & Neck Surgery. Death rates increased among white men with fewer than 12 years of education, according to Dr. Amy Y. Chen, of Emory University School of Medicine and the American Cancer Society, and colleagues.

Another study in the same issue of the journal found that poor overall quality of life, pain and continued tobacco use seem to be associated with poorer outcomes and a higher death rate two years after diagnosis for patients with head and neck cancer.

The study included 276 patients diagnosed between September 2001 and September 2008. The overall survival rate two years after diagnosis was 90.8 percent. The likelihood of death within two years of diagnosis was: four times higher for those who reported low quality of life than for those who reported a high quality of life; four times higher for those who continued to use tobacco than for those who had quit or never used tobacco; and two times higher for those who reported pain than for those who said they had no pain.

“In addition to older age and advanced stage, which are known to have a negative effect on survival, the presence of pain and continued tobacco use should flag patients who might need longer and more intense follow-up care to improve their observed and disease-specific survival rates,” concluded the researchers at the University of Iowa Hospital and Clinics in Iowa City in a journal news release.

“This information is useful for clinicians in the development of management plans for patients who are transitioning from treatment into survivorship,” they said.

November, 2011|Oral Cancer News|

Although Most Smokers Want to Quit… Only a Fraction Actually Do

Source: The Wall Street Journal
Author: Betsy McKay


More than two-thirds of American smokers want to quit, but only a fraction actually do, underscoring a need for more services, messages, and access to medications to help them kick the habit, according to a new government report out today.

Nearly 69% of adult smokers wanted to quit in 2010 and more than half tried, but only 6.2% succeeded, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Those who try to quit can double or triple their chances with counseling or medications, but most of those who did try to quit in 2010 didn’t use either. Nor did they receive advice on how to quit from a doctor.

The findings suggest more needs to be done to help smokers quit — particularly certain segments of the population with low quit rates, said Tim McAfee, director of the public health agency’s Office on Smoking and Health, in an interview.

Nearly 76% of African-American smokers wanted to quit last year, and 59% tried — well above the national average, said McAfee. But a mere 3.2% succeeded, which is the lowest rate among measured races and ethnicities. American smokers with college degrees had a far higher rate of success at quitting — 11.4% — than smokers with fewer than 12 years of schooling, who had only a 3.2% success rate.

Still, McAfee said, there are some encouraging signs. For example, the percentage of young adults between the ages of 25 and 44 who want to quit has climbed over the past decade. “We think that’s incredibly important and the influence perhaps of large policy shifts in the U.S.” such as smoke-free laws and excise taxes, he said. (By contrast, interest in quitting in some other countries, such as China, is low.)

State Medicaid programs are now required as part of health reform to pay for smoking cessation services for pregnant women, and the federal government also now allows states to provide coverage for medicines and counseling for other Medicaid recipients.

But “we lost some momentum” in enacting smoke-free laws, McAfee said. Twenty-five states and Washington, D.C., have comprehensive smoke-free laws in place but none has been added to the list so far in 2011. The most recent state to go smoke-free was South Dakota, last November.

A court-ordered temporary halt earlier this week to a government plan to put graphic warning labels on cigarette packs could also set back efforts to get people to smoke, McAfee said.

That’s not only because the images — such as one of a man exhaling cigarette smoke through a hole in his throat — are meant to discourage smoking, but the planned labels also include telephone quitline information. A federal judge ordered the temporary halt after tobacco companies argued it would violate their constitutional right to free speech.

November, 2011|Oral Cancer News|

Packet Helps Smokers Hide Graphic Warnings


Sticky seals in the packets of one brand of cigarettes are helping smokers cover up graphic health warnings. Graphic images of illnesses like gangrene, mouth cancer and lung disease must be printed on every packet of cigarettes to cover 30% of the front and 90% of the back of the pack.

ONE News looked at a range of cigarettes from a number of companies. Dunhill was the only product found with a seal inside the packet that can be stuck on the outside. It is labelled “exclusively Dunhill”. The sticky ‘reloc’ seal is just the size to cover health warnings. Michael Colhoun of Action on Smoking and Health says nothing about a tobacco packet is accidental and the sticky seals have been included deliberately. “This seems to be a brand marketing exercise,” he said.

Fresh-seal stickers are used to cover graphic warning images

Manufacturer British American Tobacco says its design is not intended to undermine the law. “We do not condone the practice of using one part of the pack designed for a particular purpose to hide those warnings,” the company said. It said the seal is simply for keeping cigarettes fresh.

One smoker said the sticker is “sneaky”. Some smokers said they will continue using the sticker to hide the images. Quitline says since the graphic images first appeared in 2008, numbers of calls to its helpline have increased. But there are websites and even how-to videos dedicated to showing smokers how to cover the pictures up.

This news story was resourced by the Oral Cancer Foundation, and vetted for appropriateness and accuracy.

October, 2011|Oral Cancer News|

Rate of HPV Vaccination in Teens Lagging

Source: The Associated Press
Author: Staff


Only about half of the teenage girls in the U.S. have rolled up their sleeves for a controversial vaccine against cervical cancer — a rate well below those for two other vaccinations aimed at adolescents.

The vaccine hit the market in 2006. By last year, just 49 percent of girls had gotten at least the first of the recommended three shots for human papilloma virus, or HPV, a sexually-transmitted bug that can cause cervical cancer and genital warts. Only a third had gotten all three doses, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday.

In contrast, the CDC said about two-thirds of teens had gotten the recommended shot for one type of bacterial meningitis and a shot for meningitis and tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough.

Granted, it can take many years for a new vaccine to catch on and reach the 90 percent and above range for many longstanding childhood vaccines. But use of HPV vaccine has been “very disappointing” compared to other newer vaccines, said the CDC’s Dr. Melinda Wharton.

“If we don’t do a much better job, we’re leaving another generation vulnerable to cervical cancer later in life,” said Wharton.

Why aren’t more girls getting HPV shots? The vaccine can be very expensive, and it can be a bit of a hassle. It takes three visits to the doctor over six months.

But sex no doubt has something to do with it, experts said.

Girls are supposed to start the series when they are 11 or 12 before most girls become sexually active. The vaccine only works if a girl is vaccinated before she’s first exposed to the virus.

But some parents may misunderstand, thinking their daughters don’t need it at such a young age because they aren’t sexually active. Others may believe that it would require a discussion about sex and sexuality a talk they may not feel ready to have, some experts said.

The government needs to be more aggressive about changing those perceptions with a major education campaign, Jeff Levi, executive director of the Trust for America’s Health, a Washington, D.C.-based research group, said in a statement.

Millions of Americans women and men become infected with HPV each year, though most show no symptoms and clear the virus on their own. But some strains persist and can cause genital warts and cancer. About 12,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year, and about 4,000 die from it, according to CDC statistics.

The new study was based on a 2010 telephone survey of the parents of more than 19,000 adolescents ages 13 to 17, who allowed researchers to check their kids’ vaccination records.

Rhode Island and Washington had the highest HPV vaccination rates, both around 70 percent for at least one shot. Idaho had the lowest rates, at about 29 percent.

The study was published online in a CDC publication, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

August, 2011|Oral Cancer News|

For the first time in nearly four decades, smokeless tobacco has no hand in sponsoring the College National Finals Rodeo

Source: Billings Gazette

CASPER, Wyo. — The once steadfast coupling of chewing tobacco and the collegiate cowboy extravaganza is no more. There are no Copenhagen banners, there are no Skoal flags. There are no free samples.

For the first time in nearly four decades, smokeless tobacco has no hand in sponsoring the College National Finals Rodeo.

“It’s a tremendous and tragic loss to college rodeo,” National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association Commissioner Roger Walters said during the weeklong 2011 CNFR, which ended Saturday night at the Casper Events Center. “Who lost? Our students.”

For 37 years, U.S. Smokeless Tobacco gave hundreds of thousands of dollars in the form of scholarships to college rodeo. While the presence of the company’s banners and flags at the CNFR ceased in 2009, the company — acquired by Altria that same year — continued giving scholarship money through last year.

Walters said the company, in a time of economic hardship, gave roughly $250,000 in scholarships each year to college rodeo performers. The sponsorship pullout by the company, he said, constituted an 80 to 85 percent loss in money available for the performers.

“I understand the reasons (for their departure), but in the long run, it hurts our students,” he said. “And that’s what this rodeo is for, first and foremost.”

Health officials, however, applauded the move.

“It is never a good idea to promote a product that is a deadly killer,” said Niki Mueller, the program director of Wyoming Through With Chew. “Rodeo is a family event, and the contestants are at an age that the industry likes to target. The younger the target, the longer they are a customer.”

Smokeless tobacco is sold as moist snuff and is most commonly chewed by the user. While it’s not as lethal as cigarette smoking, the levels of nicotine in smokeless tobacco can be more addictive.

In Wyoming, about 25 percent of high school boys and 7 percent of high school girls use some form of the product, Mueller said.

The loss of the smokeless tobacco company’s sponsorship has not affected the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association’s events, Walter said, because the company’s funding came in the form of scholarships.

“Financially, we’re as well off as we were three years ago,” he said. “It did not hurt college rodeo. It hurt our student-athletes.”

Walters, who has presided over the CNFR for three years, said roughly 3,500 students from colleges across the United States are members of the NIRA. To join, a student must have passed at least 24 hours of college courses with at least a 2.0 overall grade-point average.

There is also a $255 membership fee, $127 of which goes toward the student’s insurance.

The association has about 110 events annually, as well as the CNFR, which alone costs roughly $500,000 to put on. Those events are funded by sponsors, both nationally and locally.

“Without sponsorship money, college rodeo, the CNFR, would not be functional,” Walter said. “Sponsorship is what makes it happen.”

The commissioner stressed that the smokeless tobacco company’s scholarship recipients had the money given to their schools in their names. The only stipulation, he said, was that the recipient be at least 18 years old.

Jason Mincer, government relations director with the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network in Wyoming, said that while the company may not have put any requirements in terms of its products on recipients, “case after case of rolls” of free smokeless tobacco were made available.

“In my mind, it is a pretty shady thing to do for a lot of reasons,” Mincer said.

Because college rodeo is a club sport not sanctioned by the NCAA, cowboys and cowgirls are free to compete professionally at the same time, and many do. Vernon College bareback and saddle bronc rider JR Vezain of Cowley, who competed in last week’s CNFR, currently ranks 12th in bareback riding in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.

College rodeo officials have added incentive to make up for the loss in scholarship funding, as some top contestants could elect to turn pro full time if the college level is no longer lucrative.

“That’s definitely a consideration,” Walters said. “It’s something we knew would be a possibility, but we’re trying to overcome that.”

Mincer said he understands the hit students have taken in the form of available scholarship money, but he doesn’t believe that a “$1,000 or $5,000 scholarship offsets the onset of mouth cancer.”

To date, Walters said he has made more than 30 presentations to potential sponsors in the hopes of replacing the loss of scholarships.

“Have I replaced it?” he said. “The answer is no.”

Mueller, whose agency works to change the social norms and acceptance of tobacco use in Wyoming, said she also understands Walters’ concern for the student-athletes.

“The loss of the sponsor is awful,” she said. “It really does put this rodeo and other rodeos that have been affected by Altria dropping their sponsorships in a difficult position. Hopefully, a healthy sponsor will step up.”

Mincer agreed.

“Obviously, I’d like to see those scholarships be replaced by a sponsor that would have a more positive impact on our students,” he said.

Walters said he doesn’t know when or if the rodeo will replace the scholarship possibilities lost when smokeless tobacco pulled out.

“When you lose $250,000 that is supposed to be for higher education,” he said, “it’s not easily replaced.”

This news story was resourced by the Oral Cancer Foundation, and vetted for appropriateness and accuracy.