Facts About Oral Cancer

April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month, so to raise awareness, we’ve compiled some facts about this disease, which affects 53,000 people in the U.S. each year and kills one person per hour every day.


What is Oral Cancer?

Cancer is a disease caused by an uncontrollable growth of abnormal cells that invade the body and cause damage to surrounding tissue. Oral cancer develops when cancer cells begin growing in the mouth and generally appear as a growth, lesion, or sore that doesn’t go away. Oral cancer includes cancer of the lips, tongue, cheeks, sinuses, tonsils, throat, and the roof and floor of the mouth.


Where Does Oral Cancer Appear?

“Oral cancer can appear anywhere in the mouth. The most common area is the tongue, but it also occurs in the lips, cheeks, gums, oropharynx (throat and tonsils), palate, and the roof and floor of the mouth. As oral cancer grows, it can involve the jawbone and spread to lymph nodes or somewhere else within the body.”

Dr. Colleen Holtz, White Bear Dentists in White Bear Lake, MN


What Causes Oral Cancer?

“Research has shown us that men are twice as likely to develop oral cancer as women, and men over the age of 50 are the most at risk. Tobacco (including smokeless tobacco) and excessive alcohol consumption are the strongest risk factors.  In recent years, human papillomavirus (HPV) has been found to cause an increasing number of cancers of the oropharynx and are related to the rise in throat cancers in nonsmoking individuals who drink moderately. However, only a small percentage of HPV infections develop into cancer.”

-  Dr. Janice Nazareno, San Marcos Dental Group & Orthodontics in San Marcos, CA