• 4/5/2005
  • Edwardsville, IL
  • Sara West
  • The Alestle (www.thealestle.com)

Nearly 41,000 American citizens will be diagnosed with oral cancer, including cancer of the larynx, this year, according to the Oral Cancer Foundation.

The foundation also reported more than 8,000 of those suffering from the disease will die, one person per hour, 24 hours per day, this year.

The heightened death rate related to oral cancer is due to the fact the cancer is typically found in its later stages of development, most likely when the disease has already begun to spread to lymph nodes in the neck.

The cancer, which is part of a group of cancers called head and neck cancers, is quite dangerous because it may produce second, primary tumors.

“This means that patients who survive a first encounter with the disease have up to a 20 times higher risk of developing a second cancer,” the foundation reported. “This heightened risk factor can last for five to 10 years after the first occurrence.”

The American Dental Association suggested avoiding behaviors strongly associated with developing oral cancer, such as using any kind of tobacco product, overusing alcohol and overexposure of the sun on the lips.

Other risk factors include genetics, liver function and having a diet low in fresh fruits and vegetables, and the association advised people to screen for oral cancer regularly.

“Regular visits to your dentist are important in protecting yourself from the effects of oral cancer,” the ADA said. “Detecting and treating cancerous tissues as early as possible is critical in helping you beat a potentially deadly disease.”

Further, the Oral Cancer Foundation reported the demographics of citizens who acquire the cancer have remained consistent for decades.

The ratio that has changed, however, has been the gender perspective, which studies reported the ratio used to be six men per one woman developed oral cancer, and is now two men per every woman.

Studies also showed oral cancer occurs twice as often in the black population than in the white population, and the survival rates were also much poorer in black citizens than in white citizens.

The foundation said published statistics did not consider socio-economic factors or tobacco and alcohol use across ethnic populations, but it did report the cancer in the younger age group is most possibly viral based since the amount of time these people are exposed to the cancer-causing agents, like smokeless tobacco, is rather short.

“There are some possible links to young men who use smokeless chewing or spit tobacco,” the foundation said. “Promoted as a safer alternative to smoking, it has, in actuality, not proven to be any safer to those who use it.”

Though regular visits to a dentist may help screen for oral cancer, the foundation stated people should also be aware of signs and symptoms of the disease.

The earliest stages of the cancer consist of tissue changes, which may resemble a common cancer sore, said the foundation. Further, any sore or discolored area of the lip, mouth, tongue or throat should be looked at by a professional, especially if it does not heal within two weeks.

The ADA added other signs to look for, which include lumps in the oral cavity or neck, difficulty in chewing, swallowing, speaking or moving the tongue and pain, tenderness or numbness anywhere in the mouth or on the lips.

The foundation also said oral cancers caught in their earliest stages of development are least likely to have post-treatment disfigurement like those cancers that are treated later.

In order to keep a healthy oral cavity, screen it regularly, eat a diet with the proper amount of fruits and vegetable levels and quit using tobacco products, said the American Academy of Otolaryngology and the American Lung Association.

“Think about why you want to quit, pick a stress-free time to quit and get plenty of rest,” the AAO and ALA jointly said in a recent report. “Start doing some exercise or activity each day to relieve stress and improve your health.”