When people think about diseases related to smoking and alcohol, oral cancer isn’t usually one that comes to mind. However, the combination of tobacco use and heavy alcohol consumption accounts for most cases of oral cancer.
Oral Cancer is deadly and African-American men in Indianapolis should especially take note.
That’s because African-American men are at a higher risk for developing oral cancer than any other group in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the incidence rate of oral cancer among Black men in Marion County was 18 cases per 100,000 people 2002-2006, the most recent data available. In fact, oral cancer is one of the leading causes of death for Black men.
The good news is that survival rates for oral cancer are high – if it’s detected early. A check for oral cancer can be part of your regular dental exam.
“See your dentists on a regular basis, even if you don’t have teeth,” said Dr. Leonard Scott, a dentist in Indianapolis. Scott performs screenings for oral cancer at the Indiana Black Expo health fair.
What is oral cancer?
Oral cancer is a type of cancer that begins in the mouth. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), the first signs of oral cancer are often small sores in the mouth. These are usually white or red in color and can be found anywhere in or around the mouth. Other signs to look for include:
n Bleeding of the mouth and gums
n Pain in the mouth or ear
n Lump or other changes in the mouth
n Change of tissue color
n Difficulty moving the jaw or tongue
It is important to talk to your doctor if you have any of these symptoms that last more than two weeks.
How can oral cancer be prevented?
Avoiding tobacco products and reducing alcohol use can prevent oral cancer. In Indiana, approximately five percent of men report having two or more drinks a day and 16 percent report having five or more drinks on occasion. Also, 26 percent of men report being current smokers in Indiana. However, it is not only cigarette tobacco that puts African-American men at risk. Using smokeless tobacco can also increase a person’s risk of getting oral cancer. The combination of quitting smoking or using smokeless tobacco and eliminating or reducing the number of alcoholic drinks per day can lower your oral cancer risk.
Oral cancer can also be easily detected. In fact, your doctor or dentist can perform a quick and painless exam of your mouth to check for cancer. People in Indiana are already taking the first step to better oral health as about 68 percent of people report having visited a dentist in the past year.
For more information about oral cancer, please visit the ADA’s Web site at www.ada.org. You can also talk to your doctor and dentist about your risks and how to prevent oral cancer.