ROSEMONT, Ill., April 1, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The 2011 Oral Cancer Awareness Week, set for April 11-15, is intended to educate people of all ages and socio-economic levels about the risk factors and symptoms of oral, head and neck cancer and the importance of early detection. The American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons (AAOMS) agrees with the Oral Cancer Foundation, which conceived the awareness week observance, that it is critical oral cancers receive the national media attention necessary to raise public awareness.

The Oral Cancer Foundation points out that the high death rate traditionally associated with oral cancer is not because it is hard to discover or diagnose, but because the cancer has historically been discovered late in its development.  In its early stages, oral cancer may – and often does – go unnoticed because there are no blatant symptoms or pain.  This only underscores the importance of establishing a regimen to include regular self-examinations and examination by a dentist or oral and maxillofacial surgeon at least annually.

The mouth is one of the easiest parts of your body to examine yourself. Also, changes in the mouth can be easily seen, so oral cancer can be detected in its early stages. The key to early detection is performing a self-examination regularly. Examining your mouth each month will help you identify changes or new growths early. And, early detection is important in increasing the chance of a cure.

Factors That May Cause Cancer

According to the National Institutes of Health, approximately 35,000 people will be diagnosed with oral cancer each year.  The disease will strike two men for every woman, and will occur twice as often in the African American community.

Research has identified a number of factors that may lead to oral cancer. Of these, lifestyle choices, including use of tobacco and alcohol, remain the biggest cause of oral cancer. Other common factors include poor oral hygiene, irritation caused by ill-fitting dentures and rough surfaces on teeth, poor nutrition, some chronic infections and combinations of these factors. And, in recent years, the sexually transmitted HPV16 virus has been a rising factor in oral cancer, especially among younger adults. It is important to note, however, that about 25% of oral cancer patients have no known risk factors.

Studies have shown that the death rate from oral cancer is about four times higher for cigarette smokers than for nonsmokers. Those who both drink alcohol and smoke are 15 times more likely to develop the disease than those who engage in only one of these activities.

It is widely believed in the medical field that the heat generated by smoking pipes and cigars irritates the mouth and can lead to lip cancer. Prolonged sun or tanning bed exposure also puts you at risk for lip cancer.

Those at an especially high risk of developing oral cancer are over 40 years of age, heavy drinkers and smokers, or users of smokeless tobacco, including snuff. However, the number of people under 40 who have been diagnosed with oral cancer has been increasing.

Perform a Self-Exam Monthly

Oral and maxillofacial surgeons recommend that everyone perform an oral cancer self-exam each month. If you are at high risk for oral cancer — smoker, consumer of alcohol, user of smokeless tobacco, or snuff — you should also see your general dentist or oral and maxillofacial surgeon for an annual exam.

Visit the media page at for tips on how to perform a self-examination and what to look for.

Saving Faces, Changing Lives® — The American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons (AAOMS), the professional organization representing more than 9,000 oral and maxillofacial surgeons in the United States, supports its fellows’ and members’ ability to practice their specialty through education, research and advocacy. AAOMS fellows and members comply with rigorous continuing education requirements and submit to periodic office examinations, ensuring the public that all office procedures and personnel meet stringent national standards.

SOURCE American Association of Oral & Maxillofacial Surgeons

Print Friendly, PDF & Email