Detecting oral cancer early is crucial. In 2012, around 40,000 new cases of pharynx and oral cavity cancer were reported in the USA. Prevention of high-risk behaviors such as smoking pipe, cigar or cigarette, excessive alcohol use, and using smokeless tobacco can significantly help to reduce oral cancer risk. Following are discussed some ways in which the risk of oral cancer can be lowered.
Tips to Reduce Oral Cancer Risk
1. Take Adequate Vegetables and Fruits
A deficiency of nutrients may cause changes in the mouth that may increase the likelihood of cancer. However, antioxidants and vitamins in vegetables and fruits enhance your immune system, thereby helping protect you. Make sure you get a minimum of 5 servings of vegetables and fruits each day; mix them up to get plenty of variety. Squash, Brussels sprouts, and carrots are especially beneficial for the mouth.
2. Take Cancer-Fighting Foods & Practice Smart Cooking
It’s recommended by American Institute for Cancer Research to eat lots of berries, beans, cruciferous vegetables (such as broccoli and cabbage), flaxseed, dark green and leafy vegetables, grapes, garlic, tomatoes, green tea, and soy for their effectiveness in cancer prevention. Including cancer-fighting food items in the diet can help to reduce oral cancer risk.
While cooking fruits and vegetables, avoid cooking out all of their cancer-fighting goodness. Take some of those veggies and fruits raw to receive the full effect. While you are cooking them, stop when you find them getting tender. There should still be some life in the fruits and veggies when you stop cooking. Moreover, cooking oils can lead to the formation of cancer-causing substances under high heat. Hence, it’s better to steam, broil, boil, or bake your food instead of frying.
3. Protect Yourself from Sun
Getting too much of sun exposure doesn’t only increase the risk of skin cancer, it also causes problems for the lips. Consider staying away from direct sunlight during the middle of the day, since that’s the time when the sunlight is the strongest. When going out, wear a wide-brimmed hat that shades your face completely. Apply a lip balm having an SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 15. Apply the lip balm frequently. Additionally, avoid tanning beds.
4. Reduce your Alcohol Intake
Heavy drinking over many years irritates the mouth in several ways that can increase the risk of oral cancer. Your risk is twice if you take 3 to 4 drinks each day. Your odds are quite high if you do heavy smoking as well as drinking. In case you drink, reduce your alcohol intake by going for two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women.
5. Reduce your HPV Risk
HPV or Human papillomavirus are common viruses. The virus can be in an individual’s mouth and he/she may not know it. This is because the virus doesn’t create any problems mostly. However, it can cause changes leading to cancer in some people. HPV has a vaccine; getting it before an individual is sexually active makes the vaccine work best. In case you already are, protect yourself by practicing safe sex and limiting the number of partners.
6. Have Routine Dentist Visits
Going for routine dentist visits can significantly help to reduce oral cancer risk. A dentist doesn’t just fill cavities, clean and polish your teeth. Dentists thoroughly check your mouth from the bottom of the tongue to insides of cheeks for any growths which may lead to cancer. Dentists can catch any problem early on, making any issues easier to treat.
Several dental clinics offer oral cancer screening in their dental hygiene services. A dental hygienist performs specialized teeth cleaning and an examination of oral cavity including cancer screening. Advising you on proper dental hygiene habits is also a part of the oral care services of such dental offices. So, schedule a dentist appointment at least once every year.
7. Don’t Smoke or Chew Any Tobacco Product
If you smoke (even casually) or chew any tobacco products, decide to stop.
8. Do a Self-Exam Once a Month
Self-examining your mouth takes only a few minutes but is quite important. Get a mouth mirror (usually available at pharmacies) to examine even the hard-to-see regions in your mouth. Make sure you check your tongue’s sides and back. In case you feel or see anything suspicious like grey, red or white patches, tender areas, bumps, lumps, get it checked by your dentist.
Oral cancer is quite treatable when detected early. However, it’s always good to take steps and follow proper dental hygiene habits that can help prevent oral cancer. Following the tips discussed above can considerably help reduce oral cancer risk.