Is It Possible To Prevent Oral Cancer?

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Cancer isn’t generally thought of as a preventable illness but there are ways to lessen the risk. Research has identified a number of key risk factors linked to mouth cancer and making positive lifestyle choices can help to reduce your risk of developing oral cancer.

Ways to lessen the risk of oral cancer

While it may not be possible to entirely prevent oral cancer, here are some ways to reduce the risk:

Stop smoking

Non-smokers are less likely to develop oral cancer than smokers. If you are a smoker, quitting for good will reduce your risk of oral cancer. Smoking cigarettes and chewing tobacco exposes the cells in your mouth to many harmful substances proven to increase the risk of cancer. Examples include carbon monoxide, ammonia and formaldehyde.

It’s not easy to quit smoking, but it is possible, especially with the support of your dentist or GP.  If you’re interested in giving up or would like to find out more about the health benefits of quitting, contact your GP or dental surgery and they’ll be able to tell you about NHS Stop Smoking services, including group sessions, smoking advisors and informative packs.

Think before you drink

Drinking alcohol increases your risk of developing oral cancer because alcohol contains nitrosamines. If you drink more than the recommended daily amount, it puts you at a higher risk of developing oral cancer symptoms. The recommended maximum weekly intake is 21 units for men and 14 units for women. The more you drink, the higher the risk of oral cancer.

It’s important to be aware of what constitutes as a unit of alcohol. One large glass of wine equates to 2-3 units.

If you’d like to cut down on your drinking, go for smaller measures and alternate alcoholic drinks with soft drinks. If you’re worried about your alcohol intake or want to find out more about the effects of drinking alcohol, your GP can help.

Eat well

A healthy diet will help to reduce your risk of several forms of cancer. Eating plenty of fruit and vegetables, lots of lean meat, fish and poultry and moderating your intake of saturated fats, salt and sugar will help to keep illnesses at bay. Fruit and vegetables are especially beneficial for reducing the risk of oral cancer because they contain important nutrients and anti-oxidants.

Keep an eye on your sexual health

HPV is spread through sexual contact and there are over 100 different forms of the virus. Some forms are linked to oral and cervical cancer. HPV is relatively common and many people contract at least one strain of the virus in their lifetime. In many cases, the virus causes no problems at all, but it has been proven that some strains of HPV can increase the risk of oral cancer.

Visit your dentist

When you have a routine dental check-up, your dentist will pick up on any signs of oral cancer such as red or white patches and abnormal swelling. They’ll also ask if you’ve had any problems such as swollen gums, toothache or pain in your mouth. Regular appointments help to make sure symptoms are identified early.


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