Oral cancer: we need to talk about it
Oral cancer is on the rise—and heavy drinkers and tobacco users aren’t the only ones at risk.
New research indicates that an increasing number of young people are developing oral cancer related to human papillomavirus (HPV). Although oral cancer is most common in people over age 50, the fastest growing segment of newly diagnosed cases is nonsmoking young adults. Studies show that HPV may have surpassed smoking and alcohol use to become the primary cause of head and neck cancers in the U.S.
No matter the cause, oral cancer can be deadly. If not diagnosed and treated in its early stages, oral cancer can spread, leading to chronic pain, loss of function, facial and oral disfigurement, and death.
- 72 percent of all oral cancers are HPV related.1
- Only 64 percent of those diagnosed will survive in the next five years.2
- One person will die every hour from oral cancer.3
- 52 percent of oral cancer survivors will not return to work due to severe facial disfiguration.4
- 80 to 90 percent of oral cancer patients will survive if diagnosed early.5
In addition to regular dental checkups, you can perform self-exams at home. Start in one area and follow a pattern of observation while checking your face, neck, lips, cheek, mouth, tongue and gums. Contact your dentist immediately if you notice any of the following:
- Mouth sores that last longer than two weeks,
- Swelling, growths or lumps anywhere in or near your mouth or neck,
- White or red patches in your mouth of on your lips,
- Repeated bleeding from the mouth or throat, or
- Difficulty swallowing or persistent hoarseness.
Oral Cancer: Let’s Talk About It—downloadable flier
Oral Cancer Foundation
American Dental Association
American Cancer Society
1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "How Many Cancers Are Linked with HPV Each Year?" Web.
2 The National Cancer Institute, "SEER Stat Fact Sheets: Oral Cavity and Pharynx Cancer," web.
3 The Oral Cancer Foundation, "Oral Cancer Facts,” web.
4 OrCA Foundation, “OrCA Foundation | Early Detection,” web.