Oral Cancer

The oral cavity is made up of the following parts of the mouth: the lips, the lining of the lips and cheeks, the teeth, the floor of the mouth under the tongue, the front two-thirds of the tongue, the bony top of the mouth, the gums, and the small area behind the wisdom teeth. Oral cancer can affect any or all of these areas. This summary will describe the risk factors and screening tests associated with oral cancer.
Risk of Oral Cancer

The number of new cases of oral cancer, as well as the number of deaths from oral cancer, has been decreasing.
Anything that increases a person's chance of developing a disease is called a risk factor.
Some of these risk factors for Oral Cancer are as follows:

  • Sex: Men have a slightly higher risk of developing oral cancer than women.
  • Race: The risk of developing oral cancer is higher in blacks than in whites.
  • Age: The risk of developing oral cancer increases after age 45 years.
  • Tobacco and Alcohol Use: The use of tobacco (including smokeless tobacco) and alcohol increases the risk of developing oral cancer.

Screening tests for Oral Cancer

Screening for oral cancer may be done during a physical examination by a periodontist or a doctor. The areas of the mouth that are inspected for early detection are: the floor of the mouth, the front and sides of the tongue, and the soft palate.  However, it is not known if screening decreases the risk of dying from oral cancer.