Mouth Cancer Prevent

Professionals estimate that over 1.4 million new cases of cancer will be diagnosed this year. Oral cancer, or mouth cancer, will account for over 34,000 of those new cases. And of those 34,000 patients, more than 7,000 will die.

Researchers at hospitals all over the world are making strides in isolating cancer genes. They are learning what flips the switch on a healthy cell and causes it to become cancerous. While we can’t always overcome the genetic factors that may cause cancer, there is a lot we can do to avoid developing cancer.

Smoking and Mouth Cancer

Stop smoking. You’ve heard it for years. You’ve seen cancer survivors in television commercials and scary pictures of diseased mouths.

Smoking is the number one risk factor for developing mouth cancer, as well as other cancers and lung diseases. In fact, approximately 90 percent of patients who develop mouth cancer use tobacco.

Chewing, or smokeless, tobacco is not a safer choice. Mouth cancers are just as prevalent among chewers as among smokers. Stopping tobacco use will immediately cut your risk of developing mouth cancer.

Mouth Cancer and Alcohol Consumption

Research has found that smokers who also drink more than two drinks per day have an even higher risk of developing mouth cancer. Alcohol dries out and damages the lining of the mouth, allowing the chemicals in the tobacco to penetrate the soft tissue.

Mouth Cancer and the Sun

Too much sun exposure can cause cancers to develop on the lips. If you are going to be in the sun, use a lip balm with a high sun protection factor (SPF). If you spend a lot of time outdoors, perhaps as part of your job, use a barrier cream that contains zinc oxide.

Changing Habits to Prevent Mouth Cancer

Cancer prevention is often a matter of making smarter lifestyle choices.

These days, there are many good smoking cessation programs available. Among them are:

  • behavior modification programs
  • nicotine gum
  • nicotine patches
  • therapy.

These can be used separately or together to help you quit. Recent studies suggest that quitting cold turkey may actually be easiest for most people.

Remember that when you quit a bad habit, it’s important to replace it with a good habit. Instead of having coffee and a cigarette for breakfast, have a bowl of healthy cereal and then walk the dog.

Change the triggers that cause you to reach for a cigarette. If you usually relieve a stressful situation at work with a cigarette break, take a short walk around your block or your building instead. Take slow, deep breaths and relax your shoulders. You can’t eliminate stress, but you can change how you cope with it.

Old standbys like chewing gum or munching crunchy vegetables will keep your mouth busy. Keeping your hands busy with crafts or cooking will distract you from the urge to smoke, and you may get so interested in your project, you will be less inclined to stop for a cigarette.

More than one or two drinks a day can be a problem for many people. Reducing or eliminating your alcohol intake may be as simple as drinking sparkling water when you go out. If you are feeling social pressure to drink, it may be a good idea to stop going to bars or restaurants where you are tempted.

Add Some Good Habits

The food pyramid has been redesigned to feature vegetables and fruits as the foundation for a healthy body. We all know it’s better to choose fresh fruit over an ice cream sundae, or lean meats over a thick marbled steak.

While recent research has shown conflicting evidence about the value of lots of fruits and vegetables in long-term survival rates for cancer patients, the reality is that a healthy diet is an important factor in mouth cancer prevention and cancer prevention in general.

Getting regular exercise is also important. Study after study has shown that regular moderate exercise improves circulation and heart health, immunity and stress reduction. Get moving 30 minutes a day three or four days a week.

Your Dentist is Your Friend

While many adults stop getting dental checkups every six months, it is important to remember that your dentist may be the only medical professional whose job it is to inspect the health of your mouth. At least once a year, you should have a check-up.

Your dentist will examine your mouth both visually and with X-rays. He will feel around inside your mouth. It feels strange, but sometimes small lumps can first be detected this way. If anything unusual is discovered, you will be referred to your physician for further testing.

Take a Look at Yourself

Regular self-exams are always good idea. Many cancers, including breast, skin and mouth cancers, can be detected and treated early if we pay attention. When you brush your teeth, look for sores or lumps on your lips or inside your mouth. If a sore hasn’t healed in a few weeks, see your doctor. What you think is a canker sore may actually be an early, and very treatable, form of mouth cancer.

If you are having trouble swallowing or have new pain or discomfort in your mouth, see your doctor. If you wear dentures, make sure they fit well. Poorly fitting dentures can allow food or bits of tobacco to get trapped, and thereby increase your chances of developing cancer.

Preventing mouth cancer is often just a matter of making healthy lifestyle choices. If you need help to quit smoking, talk to your doctor. Become an active participant in your own good health.


American Cancer Society (2007). Can Oral Cavity and Oropharyngeal Cancer Be Prevented? Retrieved on August 14, 2007, from the American Cancer Society Web site:

American Cancer Society (2007). Will Chemotherapy Affect My Nerves and Muscles? Retrieved from on August 14, 2007, from the American Cancer Society Web site:

American Head and Neck Society (2007). Oral Cavity Cancer. Retrieved on August 14, 2007, from the American Head and Neck Society Web site: